If you are terrible at deleting emails like myself or are feeling particularly bored, it is worth going back and seeing the sheer amount of companies that have your data in some form or another. Of course, I had companies that I regularly buy from or interact with regularly, but also had random companies email me that I hadn’t even contacted or had an account with for years. The very fact that my data is stored in the darkest and deepest recesses of the internet is alarming, as we underestimate how far our digital footprint really does go.
There is a reason for this though, we are so accustomed to trading our personal data for a product or service. The immediate form to fill in is second nature to us if you want that social media profile or to buy that product. The truth of the matter is that over the years, the majority of us have always valued the product or service significantly more than the personal data that we are giving them, so that trade is easy and effortless.
The difficulty with that though comes from the fact, that with data breaches seemingly in the news every week, like Ticketmaster losing personal and financial information of its account holders, and Timehop, the popular nostalgia based social media addon, losing personal data of 21 million accounts and that is just in the past month. We then see the impact on the people whose data has been lost. Targeted by scams, exploited or at increased risk from fraud, that trade is going to become harder to do, once more of us become aware of the consequences. So where is the accountability to these companies who hold our data?
Brought about by the European Union, the new General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) was put into action on the 25th May and this is the reason for the emails and the updated policies. Part of the new requirements of these new regulations is for companies to inform their customers how your data is handled and who by, but also how you can go about deleting or moving it.
This is not just a flash in the pan, as the GDPR brings with it a lot more accountability and a welcome move towards a world where we take greater care over how our data is treated. You may not realise it, but your data is important, as the impact on you if it is lost, mistreated or exploited can have a huge consequence on your wellbeing.
It is about valuing your data, the same way you would do something that you value physically. For instance, have you ever thought how easy it is to spend money using contactless, but find it harder to hand over physical cash for the same thing? By no means am I saying stop sharing your data, but it’s about understanding your rights and knowing that you have a say over how it is used.
It’s about making an informed choice of who you give your data to, how it’s handled and who it’s handled by. If you want some more information about your rights, check out the ‘Your Data Matters’ campaign introduced by the Information Commissioners Officer (ICO) https://ico.org.uk/your-data-matters/