It is undeniable that technological development is advancing by leaps and bounds.
Throughout the 21st century, new ways of sharing information and connecting, such as social networks, have become vital in our daily lives, creating new relationships that previously did not exist. Today, life without access to online information is inconceivable, with daily processes involving the emission, reception, and processing of data.
The COVID-19 pandemic was a driving force for the imminent digitization of processes that regarded both the private and the public sectors, for them to remain relevant. Furthermore, this digital transformation meant that the interaction was no longer face-to-face, but machine-to-machine. Although this equated to significant leaps at organizational levels, it raised many concerns, especially when referring to sensitive data, setting new standards for protocols to access, filter and regulate data.
The European Union defines personal data as “any information relating to an identified or identifiable living natural person”. This may include information such as name, address, telephone number, email address, credit card information, and medical information, among others.
According to We Are Social and Hootsuite, two-thirds of the world's population will be online by July 2023, and the number of social media users will be the equivalent of 60% of the world's population. So, it is necessary to ask ourselves to what extent are we living under a new economic model where our data is the currency, and what are the limits to their use.
The protection of personal data is important for several reasons. First, it ensures the privacy and security of individuals by preventing unauthorized or improper use of their personal information. This can include preventing crimes like identity theft and online bullying.
Second, personal data protection helps build people's trust in the organizations and businesses that collect and use their information. If people know that their data is being processed fairly and transparently, they are more likely to trust those organizations and continue to use their services.
Finally, the protection of personal data is essential to guarantee respect for fundamental rights and human dignity. Without it, people may be exposed to discrimination, harassment, or financial harm.
So personal data breaches are a growing problem in the digital world we live in. One of the main causes of these leaks is the lack of adequate security measures in organizations. Failing to implement proper security measures leaves customer and employee data vulnerable to exploitation by malicious actors. The excessive collection and storage of personal information also increase the likelihood of data breaches. Furthermore, sharing or selling personal data without obtaining proper consent or using it for unauthorized purposes undermines the privacy rights of individuals and can lead to leaks.
For this reason, in recent years the importance of taking adequate security measures to guarantee data privacy has been revalued. Some examples of solid security policies and practices are data encryption, user authentication, and early detection and response to security incidents.
One of the most notorious cases of recent personal data leaks is the case of Wikileaks. In 2010, the organization released a large number of confidential US government documents, including diplomatic cables and military reports. This data leak caused quite a stir in the political and diplomatic world and revealed personal information of non-government individuals. Another notorious example is the case of Equifax in 2017. The credit reporting company suffered a data breach that resulted in the exposure of the personal information of 143 million people, including social security numbers, dates of birth, and addresses.
These cases illustrate just how important the protection of personal data is, and give powerful insight into the consequences that follow when safety measurements are undermined. Companies and organizations must adopt adequate security measures to protect the personal data of their customers and employees, taking a proactive approach to the protection of personal data, either through government regulation or self-regulation.
So, how can we protect people's data in a world that is increasingly connected and dependent on technology? Is there any type of personal information that should not be collected or shared? What responsibility do individuals have in protecting their data? How can we balance the need to collect and use personal data for business purposes with protecting the privacy of individuals?