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What Is Data Privacy? Top Risks & Best Practices

by Chris Brook on Tuesday July 9, 2024

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Data privacy, or information privacy, concerns IT's aspect involving control over data sharing by individuals or organizations. Read this post to learn more about why data privacy is important, along with best practices to strengthen data privacy.

As our online lives and activities grow more entrenched, we increase the dangers exposed to our privacy in the digital landscape. Therefore, the expectation for data privacy has become high among everyday customers, with people desiring to control their digital footprints, online identities, and the data that flows from such activities.

As an organization, providing individuals the agency to determine when, how, and to what extent their personal information is shared must be paramount. 

What Is Data Privacy?

Data privacy, or information privacy, concerns IT's aspect involving control over data sharing by individuals or organizations.

It involves ensuring that personal data collected on individuals is processed legally, stored securely, and used for its intended purpose. This includes protecting personal information from unauthorized access, use, disclosure, modification, or destruction, often by implementing various data protection policies and practices.

Why Data Privacy Is Important

Data privacy is important for several reasons:

  • Protection of Personal Information: With the widespread use of the internet, a lot of personal information is shared digitally. This can include sensitive information like social security numbers, bank details, health records, etc. Data privacy measures help protect such data from unauthorized access or breaches.
  • Trust and Reputation: When companies respect and protect the privacy of their customers' data, they earn their trust and enhance their reputation. This can result in increased customer loyalty and competitive advantage.
  • Legal Compliance: With laws such as GDPR and CCPA, organizations must adhere to data privacy norms. Non-compliance can lead to heavy fines and legal consequences.
  • Prevention of Identity Theft and Fraud: The risk of identity theft and fraud can be minimized with robust data privacy measures. Unauthorized access to personal information can often lead to these issues.
  • Upholding Human Rights: The right to privacy is considered an important human right. Ensuring data privacy upholds this right in the digital realm.
  • Business Ethics: Ensuring data privacy is also a matter of ethics. Customers entrust companies with their personal information, expecting it to be used responsibly and protected appropriately.
  • Cybersecurity: Strong data privacy measures are crucial in preventing cybersecurity threats and attacks, which can have significant  financial and operational impacts on businesses.

Best Practices To Strengthen Data Privacy 

Remember, no single technology can fully ensure data privacy, but it can create a robust data protection system when used together.

  • Understanding Data: Before any protective measures can be applied, you must understand the data your organization processes. This means identifying what types of personal data you have, where it is stored, who it is shared with, and how it is used. 
  • Privacy by Design: Implementing privacy by design means integrating data protection measures into the systems and processes that handle personal data. This should be done from the earliest stages of any project and throughout the complete data processing lifecycle.
  • Data Minimization: Only collect and process the required personal data. Holding extraneous data not only increases the risk of harm to individuals if the data is lost, but it also may violate principles of data minimization found in laws like the GDPR.
  • Training and Awareness: Make sure your employees are fully aware of data privacy requirements and the importance of protecting personal data. This will reduce the risk of breaches from human errors. 
  • Access Controls: Robust access control systems, whether role, attribute, or cloud-based, limit access to data based on necessity. Not everyone in your organization needs access to all data. The fewer people have access to sensitive information, the less chance of a breach.
  • Regular Audits: Regular data audits of your data processing activities will help identify areas of risk and test the effectiveness of the measures in place.
  • Encryption and Secure Disposal: You use strong encryption for storing and transmitting personal data. When data is no longer required, ensure that it is securely deleted. 
  • Incident Management: Have a process in place for managing data breaches. This should include the ability to identify and resolve the issue and notify any individuals who may be affected.
  • Vendor Management: If you share data with third parties, ensure they follow best practices in data privacy. You should have clear agreements in place with any third parties that process personal data on your behalf.
  • Privacy Policies: Be transparent about your data use by having a clear and comprehensible privacy policy. This can help build trust with your customers and help you comply with legal requirements for transparency. 

The Most Common Laws and Regulations Governing Data Privacy

Numerous laws globally govern data privacy, and they vary across regions and industries. Here are some of the key ones:

  • General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR): Enforced by the European Union, GDPR is one of the most comprehensive data protection laws globally. It provides explicit rules for businesses on collecting, storing, and using the personal data of EU residents, even if the company is based outside of the EU.
  • California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA): This law gives California residents the right to know about the personal information a business collects about them, the right to delete personal information held by companies, and the right to opt out of the sale of their personal data.
  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA): This US law protects patients' medical information, providing rules for medical professionals and insurance providers about handling and securing such data.
  • Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA): Also in the US, COPPA provides privacy protections for children under the age of 13, placing restrictions on the online collection and use of their information.
  • Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA): A Canadian law sets the ground rules for how private-sector organizations can collect, use, or disclose personal information during commercial activities.
  • Data Protection Act 2018: The UK’s data protection law is aligned with the EU's GDPR and governs the processing and storing of personal data.
  • Australia Privacy Act 1988: This provides guidelines for handling, storing, and managing personal information in Australia. 
  • The Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) in South Africa: It aligns South Africa with international standards on data privacy and protection.

Common Examples of Data Privacy Risks

  • Phishing Attacks: Phishing attacks are a significant risk, where deceptive emails or other communications trick users into revealing sensitive information.
  • Malware: This software can infiltrate a computer system to steal, damage, or disrupt data.
  • Data Breaches: Unauthorized access to data repositories can lead to significant data loss and exposure to sensitive information.
  • Unsecured Networks: Transmitting data over an unsecured network can make it easy for attackers to intercept and steal data.
  • Insider Threats: Current or former employees can intentionally or inadvertently exploit their internal knowledge and access to harm the company.
  • Lack of Encryption: Sensitive data that isn't encrypted is at risk, particularly during transmission or in case of data breaches.
  • Poor Access Management: If user access controls are not strictly managed, individuals might gain access to sensitive data.
  • Data sold to third parties: Without strict control over third-party data sharing, companies risk the privacy of their customers.
  • Poorly configured cloud services: Products hosted on public clouds might expose data if not properly configured and secured.
  • Non-compliance with data privacy regulations: Companies that fail to comply with data privacy laws risk fines, sanctions, and damage to their reputation.
  • Outdated security systems: Organizations are at risk if they do not consistently update and patch their software systems, as outdated systems often have known vulnerabilities that can be exploited.
  • Data in transit: Data being transferred from one location to another is vulnerable to interception and attacks. 
  • BYOD Culture: The "Bring Your Own Device" culture in many offices can pose a threat as these personal devices often lack the same level of data security as company-owned devices.
  • Social Engineering: Manipulative tactics that trick individuals into disclosing confidential information.

The Benefits of Implementing Data Privacy

Data privacy has numerous benefits for both individuals and organizations. 

  • Protection of Personal Information: Data privacy measures help safeguard sensitive personal information such as financial, health, contact, and other private information from unauthorized access, theft, misuse, and exploitation.
  • Maintaining Consumer Trust: When a company prioritizes data privacy, it reassures customers that their personal information is being properly handled, which can strengthen the business-consumer relationship and build brand loyalty.
  • Complying with Regulations: Regulatory compliance not only prevents considerable financial penalties, but in demonstrating adherence to data privacy laws, a company may also gain a competitive advantage.
  • Minimizing Security Risks: Implementing data privacy measures can also reduce the risk of data security incidents such as data breaches, resulting in improved security posture.
  • Enhancing Reputation: A strong commitment to data privacy can improve a company's reputation, whereas data breaches can result in reputational damage.
  • Facilitating Business Opportunities: With proper data privacy principles, businesses can leverage data-driven insights for marketing, product development, and other purposes more responsibly and effectively.
  • Ensuring Ethical Standards: Upholding data privacy ensures ethical standards in data handling and can help promote a culture of integrity and accountability. 
  • Supporting Digital Economy: In the digital economy, where data is the new oil, companies that prioritize privacy will foster increased user confidence in digital transactions, supporting overall market growth. 
  • Enabling Freedom of Expression: When users trust their data privacy is secured, they are more likely to express their views freely online, supporting democratic society values.

Learn How Digital Guardian Provides A Path to Data Privacy

Several concepts and tools are required to maintain effective data privacy. Digital Guardian understands how to combine them together to safeguard your customers' sensitive data. 

Schedule a demo with us today to learn more about our data privacy methods and techniques.

Tags:  Data Privacy

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