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Data Protection / Data Privacy day

29/01/2015

Every 28th of January, for some years now EU members, Canada and USA have recognized Data Protection / Data Privacy day. It reminds us of the importance of protecting our personal information online. A recent global study by Microsoft has shown that most users do not completely understand the information that is being collected about them.

Most users have the impression that private data are only the data that refer to us as a physical person. For example 'Name', 'Birth Date', or even our 'email address', which of course these data point back to the physical person directly. But what is difficult to apprehend for non-technical users is the 'META' data being collected by big & small corporations from their applications and websites. Did you know instance that Facebook, Twitter, & Google+ track your visits to any website using Likes, +1, and even “Cookies*” ? (*Cookies are offline data stored on your PC for websites.)

Some basic facts about how is data being collected from the users:

1. Every time we visit a website, or we hit the “Like” button, this data or META data is given to the service for free.

2. Private Data is broken in two categories:

A.The information we give with our consent in order to register. (Email, Name, etc)

B.The information without explicit knowledge, such as IP addresses, Geolocation, browsing history, etc.

3.Whenever we visit websites, haven’t you noticed that our browser remembers us ? How come? Why? It somewhat helps us out from typing our username and password over and over again. But is it only this information that the website knows about us? To put it softly.... NO. Each time we visit a website, a 'cookie' is saved on our computers, it’s kind of your identification memo for them.

You might think, “Ok let them have it”. Of course it’s your freedom the kind of information you allow for companies to hold. But when we realize that this information is sold out for advertising schemes, we are all puzzled with the question, “What is it being sold?”

Google announced a future project; to setup billboards where the billboard itself will recognize you and throw advertisements to you based on your online activity. So for example, if the last night you googled “Fridge” the next day on your way to work you might be thrown advertisements of the local stores near you who sell fridges.

So how can we protect our data/information?

It all starts with us. Our online activity, what we share, and most importantly how we share this information is what makes the big difference.

For starters, the most common mistake we make is giving ALL information to social media platforms. Think about it, is your brother or cousin listed on your Facebook? I am sure the majority of you have their birthdays on it...... Now think.

Is that information really needed by Facebook or any other social media platform? Or is our online activity a bit more private after all.

If you think that your rights have been infringed you may lodge a complaint directly with the European Data Protection Supervisor and also educate yourselves more on https://secure.edps.europa.eu/

George Paphitis

YEU Internet Governance Working Group Member


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