Personal data, also called personally identifiable information (PII data), is any data that can be used to identify a particular person. There is a distinction into whether data can directly identify a person, or whether it requires a combination of data. Furthermore, we see a clear distinction between very sensitive data, like health data, and general personal information, such as a name.
There are several categories in which we can group personal data. These include the following:
• Living situation
• Ethnic origin
• Political opinions
• Religious or philosophical beliefs
• Genetic data
• Biometric data
• Health data
• Sex life
• Sexual orientation
• Criminal history
If you look at this list it isn’t hard to imagine some examples of personal data. Furthermore, it is obvious how important it is that ownership of this data is properly managed.
The role data plays in our life is immense. We provide data when we close an insurance policy, when we move into a new rental house, when we buy a car and so on. This often includes sensitive data as well. And there is a lot of trust involved. We trust our insurance companies to store this data securely and to uphold government regulations, such as the GDPR. Data breaches have shown that this trust, unfortunately, is sometimes misplaced. Government regulations strive to force companies to handle data in a secure and responsible way. But is it working?
The General Data Protection Regulation, also GDPR, is a regulation in Europe that dictates how companies should handle PII data. The policy applies to any company that deals with data from European citizens and it is the strictest data policy in the world. The GDPR addresses the following topics:
Personal data — Personal data, as discussed before, is any personally identifiable data.
Data processing — This relates to any action performed with data. This includes collection, organization, structuring and erasing of data.
Data subject — The individual whose data is being processed.
Data controller — This is the individual who controls how and why personal data is processed. If you handle the data of others, you’re most likely a data controller.
Data processor — This is a third party that processes personal data on behalf of a data controller.
Violations of the GDPR can result in heavy fines of up to 4% of the annual company turnover. That’s no joke. But is it really working? It does seem to offer companies incentive to be much more careful with data. Unfortunately, it is not always taken seriously. Especially smaller companies may not have the capacity and knowledge to follow all the GDPR guidelines properly. Furthermore, big companies occasionally neglect the proper measures as well. For example, Google was fined 50 million euros in 2019 for violations of the GDPR.
The harsh reality is that much of the data that is collected is not collected with your full conscious consent. Regulations like the GDPR can only go so far since companies can find their way around certain rules. There is an incentive for them to do so, usually at the expense of the data subject (you). And let’s be honest, we all know that if you’re getting something for free, you’re actually the product.
We all want to keep our data secure and private. Protecting your data is important because it can lead to very unfortunate situations if you do not. These include:
• Identity fraud or theft
• Actual crime like robbery (Think about financial and address data)
• You can’t be sure how your data will be used against you, such as blackmail or racism.
• The future. If your data is breached, you have no control over where it might end up in the future.
There are several areas that are worth paying attention to when it comes to keeping your data private:
When you’re considering the protection of your data, it’s important to think about your offline security. Losing an unencrypted computer with personal data can be disastrous. Therefore, ensuring that any device, like phones, laptops and hard drives don’t get stolen is an important part of data protection.
Besides physical theft of devices, it is important to take a close look at your software security. Some things you can do to improve your data security are:
• Backup your data
• Use anti-virus and anti-malware software
• Dispose of old equipment safely
• Perform software updates
• Choose strong passwords
• Pay attention apps sharing your data
There are also some measures you can take to improve your data security online, whether you’re reading the news or using social media, consider the following tips:
• Be careful of what data you share on social media
• Update your privacy settings on social media
• Don’t give any data to unknown or unprotected websites
• Use two-factor authentication
• Be wary of public Wi-Fi
• Learn about cookies and how to block them
• Only use secure websites
• Don’t click on suspicious email links
Personal data breaches have the potential to destroy a huge number of lives. Fortunately, as we have discussed, there is a lot you can do to protect yourselves. There is however a difficulty regarding data ownership. We are hardly in control of our own data, and we have no record of which data is owned and used by which parties. The problem here is finding and implementing a security system that enables you, and properly authorized third-party organisations to access your data without creating openings for potential security risks.
Blockchain networks, such as Bitcoin, provide incredible opportunities in this field.
The most impressive advantage of blockchain and cryptographic technology is that these systems can serve as an immutable store of data.
Now you might wonder how that benefits data privacy exactly. The answer is simple; you can use it to prove ownership of data and administrate how it is being used. Solutions based on this technology can give you back control of your data and with whom it is shared.
Blockchain platforms can ensure that your data is encrypted, which means that unwilling modification or theft of data becomes near impossible. When you add end-to-end encryption in the data sharing process, you can secure the sharing of data.
Blockchain has always been recognized as a great asset storage system. Developments such as Zero Knowledge proofs, enable you to prove that data is within a certain range without sharing that data. You might need to prove to your bank that you have enough salary to pay your loan, without actually wanting to give them your salary data. Cryptographic solutions can make this a reality.
Since blockchain as a technology is decentralized in nature it does not rely on one central point of control. This makes it harder to illegally obtain data.
Blockchain Solutions makes it possible to enable and remove access to specific token-backed files, in addition to changing ownership of those files on the fly. This makes it much easier for users to share only specific data with companies they choose.
Blockchain offers the enticing vision of a world where you can transact without having to hand over every part of your transaction details or remember the name of your mother’s favourite childhood pet.
Now that we know how to protect your data, it’s clear why it’s such an important topic. The personal information that we share is valuable, both to us and the organisations we share it with. However, there is always the potential for it to be used against us. Taking time to protect your data is worth it, and there are many ways in which you can do so.
Yes, emails can be considered personal data because it often contains data such as names.
Yes a bank statement is personal data since it contains financial information about an individual and includes other identifiable information such as name, address etc.
The GDPR, is a regulation in Europe that dictates how companies should handle personally identifiable(PII) data.
Blockchain technology can help protect personal data by providing an immutable system where the ownership of data is recorded publicly.
In a regular database, the user is not in control of the data whereas in a blockchain, ownership is managed on the individual level and secured by a decentralized network.
Any type of data can theoretically be kept in Blockchain. Most commonly, we see things such as financial data or short text data.