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You Are Concerned About Data Privacy - but Are You Doing Anything About It?

Monica Webster

You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn’t care about their privacy. It’s human nature. You want control over what private information you share and who you share it with. Unfortunately, you can lose this control with a careless click.

What is private data?

It’s anything that reveals something about you. It’s your name, your photos, your posts on social media, your email addresses, your IP.

Some of these details are highly sensitive. For example, your banking information, genetic data, health records, social security number, and home address. As a rule of thumb, if you think your privacy would be violated in case this data became public, it’s probably private.

Data privacy is all about control

The central questions when talking about data privacy are:

  1. Who has access to information about you?

  2. Who controls this access?

You’re absolutely private if only you have access to your private data under any circumstances. And that’s impossible — unless you’re a hermit. But if you are, you’re not reading this article.

Your privacy in the hands of the government

Various entities handle your private data. The first among them is the government and its institutions. Let’s take the justice system as an example. You cannot go to court or file a claim without revealing your identity. And that’s fine — it wouldn’t be fair to the other side if you were suing them anonymously.

Similarly, you can’t get a public service (for example, electricity, high school education, healthcare) without identifying yourself.

In a perfect world, the government does not infringe upon your privacy more than it’s necessary. In the real world, some governments store every bit of data they can get their hands on. Even worse, others engage in mass surveillance of their citizens.

But the good news is that democracies are stepping up. Nearly every European country and many countries in the Americas, Asia, and Africa have adopted comprehensive data protection laws, which aim to give back control to the people when it comes to storing and using personal data.

These are steps in the right direction, but the fight for online privacy has just begun.

Your privacy in the hands of business

You can buy apples at a stand and remain unknown to the fruit seller. But buy apples online, and you’ll give away something private about you. It may be a fact as simple as that you like apples. This information will be sold to an advertiser, and the next time you go online, an ad for apples will pop up before your eyes.

Because almost everything you do online leaves a data breadcrumb. And you have little control over how these breadcrumbs are collected.

Usually, it works like this. Before you start using a new online service, you have to read to a wall of fine-printed text. You do not, because you're not insane. You click, and that’s how you agree to give away your private data. You cannot change the agreement, you cannot bargain — it’s take it or leave it. This service will collect your data, use it for their marketing purposes or sell it to the highest bidder. And there’s nothing you can do about it.

It’s easy to say — do not use these services. The problem is that most online services collect something. If you want none of your private data on the internet, you have to quit the internet. And that’s a price too high to pay.

What can you do?

Information privacy will become an even hotter topic once technologies bring more invasive tools. You’ll be surrounded by facial recognition cameras, smart speakers that listen to your conversations, e-textiles, wearable health monitors, and other data-gathering gadgets.

That means you have to take action now:

  • Privacy protection comes with informed politicians. When you’re deciding who to vote for, choose wisely. Sure, it’s hard to find a politician who understands tech. But if enough voters begin to take privacy issues seriously, more politicians will be incentivized to become informed.
  • Use tools and services that enhance your privacy. Choose private search engines, private email providers, privacy-focused browsers. And use encryption tools — they’re much more user-friendly than they sound. NordPass itself uses state-of-the-art encryption to protect your passwords. While NordVPN makes sure your traffic is invisible to your internet service provider.
  • Don’t need it? Don’t use it. Don't sign up if you don’t really need the service. And if you do need it, read the fine print before clicking “Agree”. If the fine print is too fine to be read, look for comments and reviews regarding the service’s privacy policies.

Fight for information privacy and make the internet better for all.

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