Why does your personal data need to be protected?

Your personal data is important because provides information about you, as an individual identity different from the others –what is your name, your race, your location, your religion, your sexual orientation, your identification number (in the UK, National Insurance Number), your political opinions, your health conditions, etc.- Also includes data that can make you identifiable -what is your age, your profession, your marital status, your salary, your routines, your kids, your investments, etc. It is your property and considering that it says so much about you, it is highly protected by law.

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This right is not there only to protect you from gossip, rumours, critics, bullying or undesirable marketing; it goes beyond that. Due to the rapid technological developments, the detail of your personal data can produce knowledge that can predict your choices or make easy to lead you –click on ads, sell you staff or ideologies or politicians– in other words, can be used to manipulate you. Unfortunately, Cambridge Analityca left a clear testimonial of who our personal data can be used to manipulate our thoughts and decisions without us noticing.

But that’s not all. The detail of your personal data can also produce the knowledge necessary to re-engineer our feelings –Could you imagine what all your searches, the content of your messages, your pictures and videos, your likes on fb, your location, your dating preferences, your gaming apps, your consumer habits, etc. can say about you?– all those factors allow to know you better, including what you love, desire, fear, hate, biases, cravings, etc. making it easy to move you emotionally.

Indeed, it is the magnitude of what can be done with your personal data what makes it important, and the risks of a misuse what makes it so highly protected. Giving away your personal and private details without a second thought can leave your data unsecured, in the hands of unethical people whom will blackmail you for a ransom fee; or getting you mistaken for somebody else, or exposing you to the public scrutiny; or manipulate you until you are not able to carry out your own rational thinking.

Furthermore, you do not live alone on an island; hence, your personal data also includes the ones of your closest one’s; spouses, parents, friends, employers, colleagues, etc. Going back to the data breach of Cambridge Analytica, Facebook made available the personal data of millions of users and its friends to a Company that analysed each profile (sexual orientation, race, gender, etc.) to understand their emotional states and change their behaviour towards a particular candidate. Yes, this is how the misuse of your personal data can turn into the abuse of many people’s personal data (social dimension).

The solution is not to stop providing data to keep you safe, which is quite impossible anyway every day, we provide with personal information in order to go on with our daily activities, e.g., giving our IDs to our Employer; the name of our kids to their school; our medical history to our doctor, etc- The point is to exercise our rights, starting by keeping us informed and take actions that ensure that nothing is left to chance when it comes to protecting our privacy and personal data.

It is like when you lock your house before leaving. By law, nobody should break into it, but any way you lock it up and set the alarm. Well, the same with your personal data, by law, nobody should gather and process it without you be informed and have the legal ground to do so, but any way you must verify what, why and how they are gathering and processing your data.

Let’s not mistake, the main problem is not the technological developments or the existence of incompetent or evil people; the issue is that by choosing to do not exercise our rights, we are exchanging our own protection for convenience; which in the long term doesn’t pay off.

FURTHER RESOURCES:

Rights of Data Subjects under the GDPR

How to protect your personal data?

Jessica Lam

Jessica Lam

Advocate, Consultant and Co-Founder of TALACKA Ltd., a full-service software development company integrated by developers, designers and data protection specialists.
Jessica Lam

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