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Data Privacy Day serves as reminder for consumers to protect their data online

Almost 500 million individuals had their information involved in a data breach in the last couple of years, yet many consumers still don’t have a handle on who has access to their data and what they’re doing with it. 

The theme of this year’s International Data Privacy Day, which is held by the National Cybersecurity Alliance (NCSA), is “Own Your Privacy.” The NCSA is encouraging users to learn more about how to protect their data online, and encouraging businesses to be held accountable for keeping users’ data safe. 

“Data Privacy Day serves as a reminder of one of the most important responsibilities for any organization: keeping sensitive data secure,” said Anurag Kahol, CTO of Bitglass. “Consumers are constantly discovering the information that is collected about them, how that data is used, and how daily breaches put that information at risk. Consequently, to maintain consumer trust (and remain compliant with regulations), it is imperative that companies make security a top priority.”

RELATED CONTENT: The SD Times Data Quality Project

This year, the NCSA is recommending users make informed decisions about whether or not to share data with certain businesses by looking into how much information is actually being asked for, being thoughtful about which apps they grant access to personal information, and checking privacy and security settings for apps. 

“Personal information, such as your purchase history, IP address, or location, has tremendous value to businesses – just like money. Make informed decisions about whether or not to share your data with certain businesses by considering the amount of personal information they are asking for, and weighing it against the benefits you may receive in return,” the NCSA wrote in a post

Despite the need for stricter data security, a large number of users are willing to give up personal information if it means getting a more personalized experience in the applications and sites they use, according to a new survey on data habits from Entrust released today to celebrate International Data Privacy Day. 

According to the report, 64% of consumers are willing to trade personalized data for personalization. Eighty-three percent of consumers are also “somewhat comfortable” storing biometric data. 

This concern varies depending on generation. Those in younger generations are more likely to share data in exchange for personalization. Sixty-nine percent of Gen Z consumers are willing to share personal info, while only 48% of Baby Boomer consumers are, the report revealed.

Despite the fact that consumers give their data away in exchange for these personalized experiences, a study from Pew Research suggests that many consumers don’t necessarily feel comfortable will this exchange. According to Pew Research, 81% of Americans feel the potential risks of giving data away to companies outweigh the benefits. 

And even though people may be willing to share their data in exchange for more personalized experiences, many are still concerned about privacy. Seventy-nine percent of respondents in Entrust’s survey said they were concerned about privacy and 64% said their concern or awareness increased over the past year. New coverage over security breaches and an increase in targeted ads based on online behavior were cited as the top reasons for this increase. 

According to Entrust’s survey, consumers on the whole do not trust large companies to protect their data. Only 21% of respondents actually trust established brands to do this, and only 31% actively monitor the news for potential breaches that involved their information. Despite this mistrust in large brands, people still give up their information to those companies; 126 million Americans have an Amazon Prime account and there are 1.5 billion active Gmail users, the report noted. 

The recent sudden influx of users to messaging app Signal after Facebook-owned WhatsApp changed its terms of service proves that when there is a more secure alternative, many consumers are willing to make the shift. 

“Further, there’s been an increased demand for companies to do more than the bare minimum of “not illegal,” said Pilar García, privacy officer at 1Password. “This means we’ve seen increased efforts in industry self-regulation. More big tech players choose to use a differential privacy approach — a method that allows companies to learn about a population, without learning anything about any given individual.”

García noted that app stores have been taking more responsibility in terms of privacy and data collection transparency. She expects that trend to continue, and for app stores to show a detailed and easy-to-read list of all of the data an app collects, and why. “The average user will no longer be expected to read a long, convoluted legal document to find the information,” said García. “This new, transparent approach is a simple thing companies can do to change their data collection and usage practices — and transparency is the key to improving privacy in tech. It’s about true informed consent. Don’t do anything with your customers’ data that you wouldn’t want them to know. Tell people exactly what you’ll collect and how you’ll use it. Then, let them decide.”

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