In today’s economy, companies and governments use and store people’s personal information. It’s a practice that has become increasingly common in recent years for marketing and advertising purposes, and it is here to stay.
Most people are surprised when they learn about all the things companies know about them. There are important reasons why you should be concerned about the privacy of your data. Your data is worth a lot to businesses, and you have a right to know that it is correctly handled.
Data breaches are one of the main issues involving online privacy. If a hacker breaches a company’s systems like Facebook, your information, along with that of millions of people, could be compromised, potentially leading to cases of identity theft and fraud.
What is Data Privacy?
Data privacy has to do with the proper handling of personal information by companies and governments. Currently, private and public organizations collect data from millions of people around the globe. Consumers are increasingly aware of data storage problems, such as data breaches and identity theft.
Data privacy experts think about the necessary legislation, policies, and practices that organizations should follow when dealing with people’s information. In other words, data privacy deals with how companies store and share data.
Why is Data Privacy Important?
In the mid-2000s, business giants such as Google and Facebook started collecting and analyzing data to make their platforms more personalized. Today, data is one of the most critical assets for a company. We live in a data-driven world where businesses see enormous value in collecting and storing data from consumers.
Privacy is a fundamental human right, and organizations need to build trust with customers. Therefore, businesses must remain transparent about how they handle data.
Recently, consumers have readily accepted the data collection practices of companies such as Facebook and Google. However, they will likely become much more aware of how valuable their data is in the future. Consumers might slowly demand more transparency from companies regarding data collection and storage.
Why You Should Care About Online Privacy
There are several reasons why you should care about online privacy and security. Online crime is growing, and hackers always find new ways of scamming consumers. If someone steals your personal information online, such as your bank account number or Social Security Number, it could cost you thousands of dollars and a lot of time spent fixing the problem.
1. Crisis and Online Crime
Whenever there’s an economic crisis, online crime tends to go up. For example, during the 2008-2009 recession, online crime increased by 33%. The same has happened during the Coronavirus pandemic.
During tough economic times, businesses need to cut down on programs they consider non-essential. Companies that have never experienced cyberattacks will often deem online security an unnecessary expenditure. Because they stop paying for security, they become entirely vulnerable to hackers.
The coronavirus pandemic has affected many businesses globally, and many companies may have reduced their security spending. Your information could be at risk, considering that hackers see these moments as an opportunity.
2. Data Breaches
Hackers are constantly developing better ways of breaching the security systems of companies. In recent years, many important online companies have been attacked by hackers, including Facebook, Twitter, and Yahoo. These crimes are financially devastating, causing consumers to lose thousands of dollars. The average cost of a data breach in 2020 was $3.86 million.
When a hacker breaches the databases of large companies, the information of millions of people is compromised. For example, in 2019, hackers breached Facebook’s security systems, and they gained access to over 500 million accounts.
Companies usually detect these breaches pretty quickly, but in some cases, hackers can go unnoticed and remain inside the system for years. Hackers might have access to your bank account numbers or SSNs, which they use to open fraudulent bank accounts and credit cards.
3. Government and Data Collection for Security
The U.S. government collects a lot of data for security purposes. For example, government agencies like the DEA and the IRS regularly collect information from companies like Twitter or Facebook. You can find this type of information by filing a FOIA form. The Freedom of Information Act allows citizens to access any federal agency records that aren’t protected from disclosure.
Many people believe that granting the government access to private and personal information helps catch criminals. Even though it might have some advantages, people should be aware of how the government uses their information.
According to Rainey Reitman, an Activism Director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the government doesn’t need a court order or a way to justify why it wants the information. They simply send a letter to the company asking for someone’s information, and the company has to send it back.
4. Private Companies and Data Sharing
The difference between the government and companies is that companies today are mainly exempt from transparency measures. Once they have collected your information, it’s difficult to know where it’s going to go.
Many companies reserve the right to sell data, and even though most company’s policies promise not to, they usually still share it with third-party companies. They share the information with “strategic partners” in transactions that don’t involve cash. Technically, they aren’t selling your information, but they are still sharing it with other companies.
5. Social Media and Burglary
Another reason why you should care about your online privacy and security is crimes such as burglary and theft. People are becoming more used to posting their daily lives on social media, providing information to criminals on their level of wealth, routine, or location.
Posting vacation pictures online before coming back home is a common cause of burglary. Avoid sharing too much personal information online, and always use complex passwords for your social media accounts.
How to Protect Yourself from Online Crime
According to the Cost of Data Breach Report, the average time to identify a breach in a security system was 280 days. During that amount of time, a hacker could commit fraudulent activity with your information, such as taking loans or opening credit cards.
If you are a victim of a data breach, contact the company to get information about the breach. Change all your passwords as soon as possible and lock your credit cards and bank accounts, preventing future transactions. By taking these steps, you will limit the repercussions as much as possible.
The world is becoming more interconnected, and it’s almost impossible to protect yourself from online crime completely. However, you should take the necessary precautions to minimize the risk. Avoid posting too much information online about yourself, and use quality anti-virus software.
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