Be Proactive to Protect Privacy
As consumers, we enjoy a number of rights and protections. For example, we can reasonably expect businesses to label products accurately. When they don’t, we have recourse available, like returns, refunds, and exchanges.
When it comes to our personal information and private data, we are also under the impression that we have rights and protections available to us. And, to some degree, we do.
HIPAA protects our personal medical data. And retailers need to safeguard our private payment information, although they are likely motivated to protect themselves from fraud and theft as well.
But the privacy protections that we often rely on do not, in fact, always extend to the digital domain. You may be surprised to know that we are not as automatically protected as we often assume.
For example, many of us rent cars when we travel. When we do, we often sync our phones with the car system as a matter of convenience and safety. When we do, we do not think about the fact that our private contacts may also be synced with the car.
And if we do think about it, we probably assume the data will be cleaned from the system before the car is re-rented, just as we assume the hotel room we slept in the night before will be cleaned and sanitized before the next guest.
So, we trustingly rush off to the next flight or meeting, not remembering to wipe the data. We assume our right to privacy protects us in this instance. We assume the data will be wiped out at the same time the car is vacuumed. But we are not guaranteed that will actually happen. The data may not be scrubbed from the car. As a consumer, we don’t have any protection guaranteed in regard to the personal data on our phone that may have synced with the car.
And, who knows, the next driver may just be a competitor that steps in and drives off with the contacts. And while that may sound far-fetched, you probably don’t want your private contacts in the hands of any stranger, competitor or not. So it is up to us to proactively protect our privacy by making sure we wipe the data before we return the rental. It is the only way to guarantee our privacy.
Another good example of an area in which we need to be more proactive and vigilant in protecting our private data is online banking.
We assume that online banking is safe. Or we accept the risks because we think they are small. Besides, we assume we have consumer rights, don’t we? We assume online banking is FDIC insured and all will be replaced in the event of an issue.
But did you know that if your account is hacked and you suffer a loss, you have to prove it has been hacked from the bank side, and not yours, in order to make a claim and get any compensation? You are not automatically protected.
You may also need to be able to prove your password was protected and did not fall into the wrong hands. In order to get any compensation, you may have to prove an actual breach in regards to your password too.
Both the car rental scenario and the online banking scenario illustrate that if we want to protect our privacy, we need to be much more pro-active. Consumer law and protections have not caught up with all of the possible breaches to our private data and information. It is up to us to take some of the protection measures into our own hands.
Just like we should wipe the data from a rental car, we should take the proactive measure of protecting our private banking data with software that secures our passwords and software that ensures no breaches have occurred before we begin an online banking session.
Knowledge and awareness of where and how we use our personal data is one of the first steps, but there are more steps we can take to be proactive in protecting our privacy. I plan to explore in future posts additional areas in which we can protect ourselves, because I think it is critical that we have ways to secure and protect our data. It’s why SYC uses dynamically generated keys and keeps the means for unlocking data in the hands of the data owner.