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Privacy: definition

Privacy is a fundamental right in modern societies. Yet, it has a brief history: in 1981 the 'Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data' was signed, a pioneering document in data protection. Since then, the idea has gradually entered into national and international legislation, especially in recent decades.

Threats to privacy

Commercialization of personal data

With the advent of massive social networks, a new threat has emerged. A danger that hasn't arisen from traditional threats to privacy, such as illegal state surveillance and indiscretions in the media. So it is no longer just a matter of protecting people's freedom or dignity, but of controlling the commercial use of the personal data that the people themselves have agreed to transfer. Because a large part of the Internet's economic model has been based on this principle: free services offered by platforms (social networks in particular, but also search engines or messaging services) that are being used in return for the processing of advertising profiles.

Spying

The international media has revealed in recent years details of the enormous surveillance systems implemented by governments, particularly by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA). Global surveillance that covers all unencrypted communication on the Internet and extends to U.S. citizens, foreigners and many notable figures. Most of this information that has come to light has been in the form of documents leaked to the press by the ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden and others through Wikileaks.

Cyberthreats

The nature and scale of the operations carried out on huge banks of personal data, such as social networks, with thousands of millions of users, make it almost impossible to completely eliminate threats that expose such information. The case of a data breach detected last September, which affected 50 million Facebook users, was the result of a new feature that allowed hackers to connect to the sessions of millions of users for over a year. A further problem along these lines is that all this personal data cannot be recovered once it has been posted online.

Some ways of protecting yourself

Be aware of your digital footprint.

It is easy to discover your digital footprint by writing your name in a search engine. There are also services available on the Internet that can help, for a price. Google your name and make a note (or bookmark) where your name appears. You can then approach the different websites and exercise your legitimate right to ask them to delete your data. Normally an email request is sufficient, though additionally you can ask search engines to remove your name from search results.

Use the options for controlling and managing your networks.

Most platforms, especially social networks like Facebook, let you control who can see your profile content. Make sure the options you have selected are the ones you want. In Facebook, for example, you can choose to restrict access to your photos to people who are among your friends.

Invest in data protection.

Even though having large amounts of customer data affords numerous sales opportunities to businesses, there is also a responsibility. The toughening of data protection legislation and the growing number of cyberattacks means that the correct infrastructure is required to ensure privacy. In addition to customers, there is also the duty to protect employees' data, and so a professional security solution is advisable when managing third-party information.

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