Your Data Privacy: The Legal Landscape

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At this late stage of capitalism, we find that we’re participating in a market all day every day, even when we don’t know it. As professor David Carroll from the New School says, “we radiate data.” The more that we participate online, the more information is collected to create perfected algorithms used to feed us personalized advertisements. 

As we start the new decade, data privacy is a critical legal concern. According to the website Diamond & Diamond, over 100 million people in the US and about 60 million in Canada were victims of a recent data breach from Capital One financial services. Big data has hugely influenced the 2016 US Presidential elections and many others around the world. 

As you might have seen in the Netflix documentary, The Great Hack, Carroll sued the company Cambridge Analytics for his data; he was refused. It’s bizarre that we don’t have access to our data. The strangest aspect is, Carroll only had grounds to sue because of European laws; in America, the legal landscape has just recently begun to shift.  

In this article, we’ll go over the current legal environment in Europe and the US. We’ll also provide you with some insight into ways you can protect your personal data. 

Privacy Laws in Europe

On May 25, 2019, the General Data Protection Regulation, otherwise known as the GDPR, was enacted by the European Union. The rule restricts how personal data is collected and handled. The policy ensures that users can clearly understand and consent to the information that they’ll be sharing. 

The law aims to ensure that customers have a clear and concise understanding of the terms of using a website. It also gives the right to consumers to access the information that companies are storing about them. All individuals in the 28 member countries of the EU are protected, even if their data is being processed elsewhere. 

The law has had a massive impact on web giants. In September 2019, Google refaced their privacy dashboard. The company has also stopped mining emails in Gmail for personalized ads. Facebook has also said that they’re changing their privacy dashboard.

The United States

According to California law, consumers have the right to see and delete their data. The California Consumer Privacy Act was enacted in 2018 and will start being enforced by the Attorney General in 2020. This act provides users the access that Carroll was not entitled to in the 2018 suit. 

There is one issue. To get data, you have to share more. Companies have to collect more information once you request to see what they have on you. This is because they don’t want to give your data to the wrong person.

If your data did fall in the hands of the wrong person, it wouldn’t be the first time. In 2019, Amazon sent 1700 files of a customer talking to his Alexa to the wrong person. This is a significant challenge to the legislation in both the US and Europe. If someone hacks into your account, they may be able to access all of your data potentially. 

How To Protect Your Data

Data has become the currency of the digital age. Luckily, consumers are starting to take it more seriously. If you want to protect your data and affordably, you can follow these tips. 

Switch Up Your Search Engine

Google is a default; we all assume that it’s the only option; reality check – it’s not. The alternatives haven’t always been as good as Google, but they’re getting better with time. DuckDuckGo is a search engine designed for the privacy-conscious. Bing is a good fall-back as well. 

Change Your Browser

Changing your search engine won’t do much if you’re still using Chrome. Sure, Google’s browser is convenient and easy to navigate, but it has a scary amount of control over the market. Go for Firefox or another alternative like Brave or Opera

Cover Your Camera

Covering up your webcam with a sticker won’t protect your device from being hacked, but it will keep anyone from watching you. The FBI recommends it, we assume for a good reason. 

The Verdict

It’s no longer only massive breaches we’re worried about, but it’s also how the information is being used to influence everything from our personal lives to our democracy. In many cases, these actions occur outside the jurisdiction of the law. As countries move forward on internet privacy protections, the landscape remains complex.