Today is European Data Protection Day (as if you didn’t know). So you will undoudtedly have scheduled workshops for your colleagues who use data to discuss how to respond to this year’s topic, “Think Privacy”. With real challenges looming around the use of data online and especially the role of cookies, there is every reason to be raising awareness of the issue.
For myself, I will be spending some of the day with the new Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham, and 77 14 to 17 year-olds. That may not sound like fun, but it is in a good cause – the launch of “The I in online” campaign put together by law firm Speechly Bircham (see news story below) and the ICO.
By an odd coincidence, the only other event listed on the website of the Council of Europe, which created and manages Data Protection Day, is an initiative by Suffolk County Council. As this is where I live, I’d like to feel that we have got East Anglia covered.
In reality, of course, privacy does not have geographical boundaries, especially online. Which is why a major focus of this year’s event is to inform the young about the use of their data online. While social networks endeavour to make users feel their pages are private, the data they upload may not have any special protection and can rapidly escape their control and go global.
Facebook’s recent change to its terms and conditions is evidence enough of the way legitimate online businesses are pushing the limits of what they can do with personal information. For illegitimate businesses, social networks are one of the hunting grounds for valuable pieces of data that can assist with identity hijacking and fraud.
Somewhere between the free and easy attitude of today’s digitally-enabled youth and the devil-take-the-hindmost view of fraudsters exists the new zone of operation for online businesses. What is problematic is the way those businesses can themselves be too casual with data.
Marketing may be intrusive at worst when done carelessly. For many web users, there are worse consequences of having their data taken by unauthorised people, starting from bullying and escalating upwards. Ensuring that your business is not responsible for such events through data theft or security breaches is therefore essential.
If the young generation is to learn how to take more care with their personal information and how it is shared, then it is vital that commercial organisations play their own part well. As the ICO urges, think before pushing the button.