In the realm of the digital age, data privacy has become an unsung protagonist. It’s the mysterious figure lurking behind every email sent, every transaction made and every site visited. Yet, for many, data privacy is a foreign concept often overlooked until it’s too late.

Data privacy is about keeping your personal information secure. Companies, governments and cybercriminals all seek this information for various reasons, making it vital to understand how to keep data protected. Luckily, our guide on data privacy provides the information you need to claim control of your digital footprint.

What Is Data Privacy?

Data privacy is the control an individual or organization has over sensitive information stored or collected about them. It is the ability to determine who has access to this data, how it’s used and the safeguards in place to protect it from unauthorized exposure. 

Personal data associated with data privacy includes sensitive information like names, addresses, Social Security numbers and financial data. It also extends to less overtly personal data like browsing history, location data, IP addresses and online purchases. Further, it may encompass biometric data, health care records and employment details.

The concept of data privacy traces its roots to the early days of computing, where personal information was stored electronically for various purposes. As the digital landscape expanded, concerns regarding data misuse and privacy breaches rapidly increased. 

The evolution of social media further compounded these concerns. With users freely sharing personal information on platforms like Facebook and Twitter, the amount of data being generated has reached unprecedented levels.

Cartoon cell phone with an eye on the screen representing data privacy.

Why Is Data Privacy Important?

With technology advancing at breakneck speed, the importance of data protection and privacy is no longer optional — it’s a requirement. Data privacy hinges on allowing individuals to control their digital footprint.

Every time we connect to the internet, we generate an extensive amount of data. From simple social media likes to our shopping habits, this seemingly innocuous data paints a vivid picture of who we are. When this private data ends up in the wrong hands, repercussions can include:

  • Identity theft: Personal data could fall into the wrong hands, leading to identity fraud, where individuals could face unauthorized transactions or criminal activity conducted under their name.
  • Financial fraud: With access to sensitive financial information, cybercriminals could carry out fraudulent transactions, leading to serious monetary loss.
  • Lack of trust: Companies could lose their customers’ trust, impacting customer loyalty and leading to business loss.
  • Legal repercussions: Without adherence to data privacy laws and regulations, companies could face heavy fines and legal actions, damaging their reputation and finances.
  • Increased cybercrime: The risk of cyberattacks could increase as more valuable data becomes easily accessible to hackers.
  • Loss of privacy: Without data privacy, our personal lives could become an open book, accessible to anyone.
  • Manipulation and exploitation: Data could be used to manipulate behavior and decisions, often without an individual’s knowledge or consent.

Data Protection vs. Data Privacy vs. Data Security

Data protection, data privacy and data security are three intertwined yet distinct concepts in the world of digital data.

Data protection is the overarching umbrella under which data privacy and data security find their shelter. It includes everything we do to keep information safe from things like data breaches, mishandling of information or misusing it. This wide-ranging concept includes regulations and policies to prevent data mishandling.

Nestled within this sphere is data privacy. It’s about the “right” use of data. It sets the rules for how and why businesses collect personal data, ensuring they use it in line with the individual’s consent and intended purpose. Data privacy is about respect and ethical treatment of information while maintaining user trust.

Finally, there is data security, the tech whiz of the group. It carries out protective digital measures, like firewalls, encryption, two-factor authentication and more. Data security is the buffer that protects against breaches and other cyberthreats.

In short, data protection, data privacy and data security work in harmony. Each has a distinct role, but together they create a secure digital environment.

Orange and blue data protection umbrella covering data privacy and data security.

Data Privacy Regulations

As technology advanced, so did the need for legal frameworks to govern the use and protection of personal data. These regulations include:

  • The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), established in 2016, guarantees fundamental rights for EU residents, including the right to be informed, the right of access, the right to rectification, the right to deletion, the right to restrict processing, the right to data portability, the right to object and the right to opt out of automated decision making. These rights apply to EU citizens, regardless of their location outside the EU.
  • The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), California’s 2018 response to increasing concerns over data privacy, intends to provide consumers increased control over their personal data, irrespective of their location outside the state. To address certain shortcomings, the California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA) was introduced, modifying several elements of the CCPA, with enforcement beginning in 2023.
  • The U.S. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was implemented in 1996 to set nationwide standards for health data. It clarifies the classification of sensitive health information, provides guidelines for data protection and outlines rules for compliant data releases.
  • The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), a U.S. law passed in 1998, concentrates on protecting the privacy of children under 13 years old. It sets stringent rules on the collection and usage of personal information related to children by websites and other online services.
  • The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), enacted in the U.S. in 1970, assures individuals of their rights and protections concerning credit information. It imposes a legal obligation on credit reporting agencies for the accurate and fair management of this information, providing legal remedies for any violations. The FCRA also establishes restrictions on who can access a person’s credit information and the purposes for which it can be used.
  • The Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) is a federal law introduced in the United States in 2002 seeking to fortify the security of government-operated computer and network systems. It requires every federal agency to develop a comprehensive program to ensure the security of information relevant to their operations and related assets.

How to Keep Your Data Safe

Safeguarding user privacy has become more important than ever before. Here are some examples of data privacy to make sure your personal information is secure:

  • Create strong passwords: Your first line of defense is a robust password. Be creative and avoid common, predictable choices like “123456” or “password.” Using a password manager helps protect your password with encryption,  simplifies the login process and significantly enhances your online security
  • Activate two-factor authentication (2FA): This adds an extra layer of security, making it difficult for unauthorized users to access your information.
  • Beware of phishing attempts: Cybercriminals have become crafty, often disguising their attempts to steal your data as legitimate emails or messages. Be skeptical of any unexpected communications asking for sensitive data.
  • Keep software up to date: These updates are not just fancy new features — they often include security patches to fix vulnerabilities, making it harder for hackers to access your data.
  • Use a secure network: Don’t compromise user privacy by using public Wi-Fi for sensitive transactions. If it’s the only option, use a virtual private network (VPN) to encrypt your data, rendering it unreadable to outsiders.
  • Limit social media sharing: Be careful of what you share on social media. Cybercriminals can use personal details for identity theft or to answer security questions.
  • Encrypt your data: Encryption turns your data into unreadable text until it reaches its intended recipient. You can use encryption for emails, files and even your entire computer.

Laptop with a big lock and chain around the screen sitting next to a yellow flower in a pot.

At Panda Security, we know nothing is more crucial than safeguarding your personal details. That’s why over 30 million daily users trust us to keep their data protected. Check out our premium protection services to see how we help keep your digital life secure.