“Privacy means people know what they’re signing up for, in plain language, and repeatedly. I believe people are smart. Some people want to share more than other people do. Ask them.” – Steve Jobs
However futile a piece of data is today; it might be of high importance tomorrow. Misuse of personal data might lead to devastating consequences for the data owner and possibly the data controller.
Why is Data Privacy important?
For us to understand the importance of data privacy, the consequences of not implementing privacy protection must be understood. A very relevant example to understand this better is the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal which potentially led to canvassing millions of Facebook users for an election without users’ explicit consent.
To answer one long standing argument against privacy is that “I do not have anything to hide and so I do not care about privacy”. It is true that privacy can provide secrecy, but beyond that, privacy also provides autonomy and therefore freedom, which is more important than secrecy.
How can businesses benefit by being data privacy compliant?
Businesses can have multifold benefits for complying, implementing, and enforcing privacy practice within the organization. Once an organization is compliant with general data privacy principles, they also become mostly compliant with healthcare data protection laws, security regulations and standards. This reduces the effort an organization has to go through to be compliant on several other security and privacy regulations or standards.
How can businesses use privacy to leverage competition?
With privacy being one of the highly sought out domain after the enactment of GDPR regulation for the EU followed by CCPA for USA and several other data protection laws around the world, businesses can leverage these for competitive advantage rather than looking at privacy regulations as a hurdle for their business and just as a mandatory compliance requirement. This can be achieved by being proactive and actively working to implement and enforce privacy practices within the organization. Establish regulatory compliance with the customers by means of asking for consent, being transparent with the data in use and by providing awareness. Educating people by providing data user centric awareness as compared to providing awareness for the sake of compliance is a good practice and thus will result in increasing the reputation of the business.
Why is privacy by design crucial?
Business should also focus on operations where implementing ‘privacy by design’ principle might build a product which would be compliant to privacy regulations as well as security regulations and standards through which a solidly built future proof product could be delivered.
The work doesn’t stop with enforcement and implementation, continual practice is necessary to maintain consistency and establish ongoing trust with customers.
With increasing statutory privacy regulations and laws in developed countries, several other countries have been either planning to enact privacy laws or have already started implementing them. This would be the right time for businesses located in developing countries to start looking into privacy practice so that it would be effortless when a privacy law is enacted and put into enforcement.
What’s wrong with Privacy Laws?
Privacy laws that are in practice come with their fair share of problems since they are relatively new.
- Consent fatigue is a major issue with GDPR since it requires data owners to consent to processing or use of their data constantly, which tires the data owner and results in them ignoring privacy and consent notices when sent by the data processor or data collector.
- Another common issue is sending multiple data requests by ill-motivated malicious users or automated computer bots to the data collector in order to bombard them with requests for data owner’s data which is available with the controller, this is a loophole under the ‘right to access’ of GDPR which is being exploited in some cases. This will burden the data protection officer to cause delay in sending requested data to the customer thus inviting legal consequences.
- Misuse of privacy limitation guidelines are also a major problem in the GDPR space, time and again data collectors provide data processing purpose notice to data owners and subsequently use the same data for a different purpose without receiving proper consent from data owner thus often violating the law.
What the future holds for privacy?
As new privacy laws are in works, better and comprehensive laws will be brought in, learning from inconveniences of existing laws. Amendments for existing laws will also follow to enhance the privacy culture.
Privacy landscape is moving towards better and responsible use of user data, as the concept of privacy and its implementation matures with time, it is high time businesses start implementing privacy strategies primarily for business growth rather than merely for regulatory compliance. That is the goal every mature organization should aim towards and work on.
Privacy is firstly a human right; therefore, privacy laws are enacted on the basis of rights, because laws can be challenged and modified under court of justice, but rights cannot be.
About the Author –
Barath Avinash is part of GAVS’ security practice risk management team. He has a master’s degree in cyber forensics and information security. He is an information security and privacy enthusiast and his skillet include governance, compliance and cyber risk management.