Data Protection: Everything You Need To Understand About It

In the age of digitalisation, everything and anything is online and always connected. Have you ever wondered what happens to the data you share online through online shopping, bank transactions, etc.? We live in a world where speed and convenience offer instant gratification for online users, but do we think twice before we give away our personal data online? So here’s a breakdown of what data is, its value and some data protection measures to prevent data exploitation.

Consumers' data online are connected like fruits on a tree.
Data connectivity in the age of digitalisation.
Source: Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Data Protection: What Exactly Is Personal Data?

European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) defined personal data as “any information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person”. This includes any information that could lead to the direct or indirect identification of a living individual. Personal data constitutes any information collected or processed regarding commercial transactions by any automated teller machines (ATMs) or computers. For instance, it includes information such as names, addresses, passport numbers, email addresses, telephone numbers and of course, banking details.

The collection of these information means some users may not understand what they are disclosing as owners of their data. Furthermore, the collection of some sort of data is obvious, but the specifics are often hidden in the terms-of-service agreements. Online users would usually hit “Agree” without even glancing through the terms-of-service agreements. Businesses keep consumers in the dark on the amount of information they collect, who gets to access it, and what it’s worth.

Major businesses have been collecting personal data for years.
Consumers’ data is constantly being collected by major corporations.
Source: Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

What Makes Our Data So Valuable?

In the modern world, data is becoming more and more valuable. It is just as important as oil, as it fuels the most powerful corporations today. According to RingLead, 97 percent of businesses utilise data to grow their business. While 76 percent of businesses utilise data as an essential part of forming a business strategy, major companies utilise data and analytics to make strategic business decisions that engage with their customers.

The value of collected data lies in its usage for targeted digital advertising. The personal data that users give away online turns into a precious commodity. Thanks to the various apps invented, businesses get to collect data on our shopping habits, sleeping routine, health conditions, etc., enabling them to cater to consumers better. Based on the compilation of data from the public, the companies would be able to extract meaningful information such as gender, age group and buying patterns. Consequently, targeted advertising tend to increase the chances of you buying the product, or at least clicking on it.

Transportation Of Data And The Risk It Poses

In cyberspace, the sharing and transferring of vast amounts of personal data occurs instantaneously. Thus, making it increasingly difficult for people to gain control of their personal information. The abuse of personal data can bring great harm to consumers. It puts our data at risk if they fall into the wrong hands of professional cyber criminals.

For instance, using an unsecured network in public makes your device more susceptible to hackers. Thus, it is advisable to not conduct online banking transactions via a public Wi-Fi to avoid getting your banking details stolen and thereby, robbed. Even when you’re not conducting financial transactions online, you should still be wary of free public Wi-Fi.

Businesses often rely on data analytics to come up for a marketing plan.
Data analytics is an essential tool for digital marketing.
Source: Image by Photo Mix from Pixabay

The Shocking Facebook Data Scandal

Facebook and Google have made it so convenient for us to register for new accounts on several platforms without having to create new passwords. As it is able to link all our accounts to Facebook, thus making it easier for us to manage our accounts. This definitely gives us less hassle when it comes to remembering our passwords, right? Think again!

In early 2018, Facebook was charged with data breach for exposing up to 87 million Facebook users’ data to a political consulting firm, Cambridge Analytica. At that time, Cambridge Analytica had been hired to work for the Trump campaign. The personal data of millions of people’s Facebook profiles was used for political advertising purposes without their consent.

The data came from a personality quiz, called “thisisyourdigitallife“. Personal information of the users’ addresses and the pages they liked were mined from the quiz. The data helped create psychological profiles that analysed personality traits, which was later used during political campaigns.

The scandal eventually led to the CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg testifying before the United States Congress. The investigation of the scandal ended with the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) slapping Facebook with a fine of USD5 billion.

Facebook allows you to sign up for multiple accounts across multiple platforms through its site.
Facebook is a popular social networking site launched in 2004.
Source: Image by Simon Steinberger from Pixabay

How Can Data Protection Solve The Issue

Data protection is the practices and regulations that protect your personal data and ensure that you control ownership of it. As a netizen, you should have the freedom to dictate whether or not you want to share your information, to whom you give access to, for what reason, etc. Data protection prevents data abuse by unauthorised third parties for fraud, such as scams and identity theft.

The European Union (EU) mandated data protection to become a fundamental right. The data protection framework for EU being the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The implementation of the law has enabled Europeans to regain control of their personal information and protect themselves from exploitation. Inappropriate handling of an individual’s data by an organisation will lead to it being fined by the GDPR regulators.

As data continues to grow at an unprecedented rate, governments play an important role in ensuring personal data protection. Regulations and policies on data protection should be implemented to safeguard personal data.

The European Union is the first to come up with a proper data protection regulation.
The European Union has implemented the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) since May 2018.
Source: Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

Data Protection 101: How Can We Protect Our Data Online?

1. Back Up Your Data

Firstly, one of the most important yet overlooked tip on data protection is to back up your data. This basically creates a duplicate copy of your data. Even in the case of a lost, stolen or compromised device, you still have a backup copy of important data. The cloud provides an ideal solution for backing up your data.

2. Configure Privacy Settings For New Devices

Secondly, when setting up a new device or operating system, prioritise the configuration of its privacy settings. This ensures that you don’t inadvertently share sensitive information during your usage of the app or device.

3. Read The “Terms-Of-Service” Agreements

Thirdly, do take time to read through the “terms-of-service” agreements that pop up. Furthermore, make sure that you understand the clauses mentioned in the agreement before clicking “Agree” to access the web page. Only consent to terms that you agree with, contrary to popular belief, what you don’t know can hurt you.

4. Secure Wireless Networks With A Password

Fourthly, always secure your wireless network with a password. This is to prevent unauthorised individuals within proximity from hijacking your wireless network. You wouldn’t want to inadvertently share private information with others using your network without permission.

5. Make Use Of Antivirus And Anti-Malware Software

Last but not least, installing antivirus and anti-malware software can also help to protect your data. It is essential for laying a foundation of security for your devices. Run periodic scans for spyware and avoid clicking on suspicious links online to avoid malware infection.

Data protection is one of the most important knowledge today.
Education on data protection is extremely important in today’s world.
Source: Image by Darwin Laganzon from Pixabay

Awareness On The Importance Of Data Protection

In conclusion, there is a need to raise more awareness on data appropriation by governments and businesses. On the other hand, as netizens, we have to educate ourselves on the topic of data protection. Furthermore, it is also up to us do our part in taking preventive measures.

For more information, please visit the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC)‘s website to read more on the topic of data protection. Additionally, Malaysia already has a Personal Data Protection Act 2010, please click here for more details.

If you’d like to know how market research studies collect your data, read this article for some insights.


This article is part of Espoletta’s CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) initiatives.

E Wen YEO

About E Wen YEO

A budding linguist with an education background in both science and arts, E Wen loves meeting people from all cultural background. The more diverse the people she meets, the wider her view of the world she'd see. She also has a soft spot for fluffy kitties and horror flicks.

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