Why Protecting Data Privacy Matters, and When

Anne Russell at Data Science Central: “It’s official. Public concerns over the privacy of data used in digital approaches have reached an apex. Worried about the safety of digital networks, consumers want to gain control over what they increasingly sense as a loss of power over how their data is used. It’s not hard to wonder why. Look at the extent of coverage on the U.S. Government data breach last month and the sheer growth in the number of attacks against government and others overall. Then there is the increasing coverage on the inherent security flaws built into the internet, through which most of our data flows. The costs of data breaches to individuals, industries, and government are adding up. And users are taking note…..
If you’re not sure whether the data fueling your approach will raise privacy and security flags, consider the following. When it comes to data privacy and security, not all data is going to be of equal concern. Much depends on the level of detail in data content, data type, data structure, volume, and velocity, and indeed how the data itself will be used and released.

First there is the data where security and privacy has always mattered and for which there is already an existing and well galvanized body of law in place. Foremost among these is classified or national security data where data usage is highly regulated and enforced. Other data for which there exists a considerable body of international and national law regulating usage includes:

  • Proprietary Data – specifically the data that makes up the intellectual capital of individual businesses and gives them their competitive economic advantage over others, including data protected under copyright, patent, or trade secret laws and the sensitive, protected data that companies collect on behalf of its customers;
  • Infrastructure Data – data from the physical facilities and systems – such as roads, electrical systems, communications services, etc. – that enable local, regional, national, and international economic activity; and
  • Controlled Technical Data – technical, biological, chemical, and military-related data and research that could be considered of national interest and be under foreign export restrictions….

The second group of data that raises privacy and security concerns is personal data. Commonly referred to as Personally Identifiable Information (PII), it is any data that distinguishes individuals from each other. It is also the data that an increasing number of digital approaches rely on, and the data whose use tends to raise the most public ire. …

A third category of data needing privacy consideration is the data related to good people working in difficult or dangerous places. Activists, journalists, politicians, whistle-blowers, business owners, and others working in contentious areas and conflict zones need secure means to communicate and share data without fear of retribution and personal harm.  That there are parts of the world where individuals can be in mortal danger for speaking out is one of the reason that TOR (The Onion Router) has received substantial funding from multiple government and philanthropic groups, even at the high risk of enabling anonymized criminal behavior. Indeed, in the absence of alternate secure networks on which to pass data, many would be in grave danger, including those such as the organizers of the Arab Spring in 2010 as well as dissidents in Syria and elsewhere….(More)”