International Data Privacy Day Underscores Worldwide Focus on Protecting Consumer Data

January 31, 2020
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By Anne Kimbol, Chief Privacy Officer

Recognized by international organizations, the January 28 Data Privacy Day is meant to raise awareness among businesses and their customers about the importance of protecting the privacy of personal information. The privacy conversation will continue to get louder in 2020 as more laws are passed internationally, and in the United States—where California has recently enacted a privacy law and more than 20 other states are working on their own privacy bills already filed this legislative session.

There has also been a concern in the press about personal information being shared with big tech companies and how it is being monetized. This demonstrates how privacy issues concern everyone from individual consumers all the way up to a global level; it’s a complex topic with a lot of nuances.

Each of us individually—as people, corporations and governments—needs to understand our role in what privacy is and how to achieve what we want. It’s not just our name, address, social security number, credit card info, or even our health records. It’s also sensors, devices, activity and behaviors, and locations. There’s a lot to data that could be tied back to each individual—and that data is valuable to legitimate companies and cybercriminals alike.

What Is Privacy and Why Such a Focus?

Respecting data privacy requires organizations to ensure customers are aware of, likely to agree with, and can opt-out of uses of their data outside the explicit transaction with the customer.

Governments are forcing a focus on privacy as consumers have become aware of the lack of transparency in the way many businesses and organizations handle data. With many regulations now in effect, significant fines will ensue for firms that do not properly protect personal information as defined by the law. There’s a moral and ethical angle to this as well, but we will leave that for another discussion.

Time to Act, But Also Focus

I recently published a short piece in Chief Privacy Officer Magazine on some privacy trends to expect for 2020 that should help you get a sense of what is coming your way and what your organization will to need to focus on. In order to take appropriate action, it’s important to understand the various perspectives surrounding privacy—from consumers to corporations to governments.

I also joined “At the Edge” podcast with a distinguished panel of privacy experts moderated by the host, Sean Martin of ITSPmagazine. The show topic focused on privacy in the context of consumer data, what we might see happen during 2020, and how that will impact businesses, individuals and society overall. Here are some of the key points my peers passed along during the podcast:

  • Ruby Zefo (Uber): “It’s difficult to define privacy because it’s personal for every individual. When you’re a business, you think about what consumers want, which is simply more transparency and control over their data. Currently, it’s a challenge for consumers to understand what’s happening in these areas. That’s a situation that everybody wants to improve.”
  • Kim Nevala (SAS): “There’s a profound disconnect between how privacy practitioners understand and think about privacy versus how privacy is viewed by customers and business partners. Practitioners understand how pervasive the data is and how it’s used, but the general population does not have this same understanding.”
  • Sean John (Microsoft): “The bad guys don’t care about privacy, but privacy legislation isn’t about regulating the bad guys. It’s about regulating the use of people’s data for the organizations they have chosen to give it up to.”

Feeling the Pressure

Consumers will continue to learn more ways in which their data is used and demand more control over their privacy. This, in turn, will move more U.S. states and countries across the globe to consider comprehensive privacy laws that will restrict how businesses can handle your customer data.

That makes understanding privacy and the regulations that pertain to your organization paramount. Now is the time to make sure you’re ready—the pressure is on!

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