AfriTech Blurbs
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AfriTech Blurbs

Data Privacy and its Importance

Some time back, whenever I would receive a call or a text from an unknown number, I would rush to Facebook and run a search based on the number to find out who it belonged to. Truecaller also offers the same service, which allows people to identify the caller or the texter.

How many loyalty programs have you registered to? Most of the local stores have significantly invested in collecting their client’s data to understand the purchase behaviors or their clients. We, the clients, however, readily offer the data without really thinking about data privacy. Another interesting scenario is on social media. Social media provides most of our data to either businesses or any other interested parties. Speaking or interested parties, “Joe” in “You” is an excellent example of how social media can provide information about a person without their knowledge.

All these bring about a discussion about data privacy. Let’s get on it. What is data privacy? And how does it affect us as an individual?

Data privacy is concerned with how data is used, the consent, the notice, and the obligations towards regulations. Speaking of regulations, have you heard about the kinds of GDPR, HIPAA, and CCPA? These are all examples of data protection regulation policies.

Data privacy focuses on how data is collected on a legal basis, how it is shared with third parties, and what regulation exists to protect r safeguard the data. This also implies that data privacy is related to data security on the basis that it involves all the listed cases above and how it can be safeguarded throughout the process.

The idea of data privacy lies entirely in personal identifiable information. Abbreviated as Pii, personally identifiable information relates to the information that identifies with the individual and can be used to identify who you are.

Imagine a situation where you are a loyal subscriber to a couple of good consumer stores, and your identity is used to hold all the information about what you consume and when you consume it. Now add the idea of using either mobile or credit card purchases to the different stores. The credit card companies know where you make most of your purchases and can collaborate with the numerous stores to know which products or what the amount you consume is on a monthly and annual basis. The excellent consumer stores know hat time of the month to stock what products. The credit card company knows your income and your savings, so your financial data is readily available to them. The mobile company knows where your device is most of the time. This is normal, right?

How about combining all this data into one package? With such an amount of data, as a good consumer store, I can find strategies for my store to operate based on consumer needs and when they are most likely to purchase certain products. I can also target different customers with customized ads on discounts on the products that they want and or are anticipated they would be interested in. This is made possible by the collection of data. The world has moved from the era of incurring losses due to unanticipated risk to an era where they can plan on what to have at what time and be sure that you will come to purchase it.

For those of us who love tv series, I bet you have watched the series “Person of Interest.” Whereas the series is focused on artificial intelligence, the part I want of focus on is on the fictitious company “life trace” at one point the CEO of that company is bidding on a contract and tend to know some very private information about one of the members of the contracting team. He gives the guy a baby gift, which at first is surprising since the family has not informed anyone about them being expectant. This is the power of data. It is interesting that the CEO then states that the loyalty program in one of the sores that the couple uses provides the data that they have used to understand all their clients.

Data companies are making obscene amounts of money by analyzing and selling business intelligence data to other third party companies. In one of my favorite ted talks from 2015, Stuart Lacey states that for every service that you enjoy but do not pay for, you are or your data is the product you are providing as the payment.

Let’s go to Facebook, and most people have been angered by the numerous ads popups of things thy have just talked bout or have just googled on or just took a photo of and shared on your page or messaged it to a friend with the caption “look at this …”.(unfortunately, it never tells you who the girl who sat next to you in the bus is!) Facebook as a data company collect all the necessity information to ensure that when they approach the third party companies that might or are interested in your data, it would be highly likely that the company will buy your data at a heartbeat. Everyone likes to be prepared. Fortunately for these modern businesses, it is now more likely to be ready and strategies on business process than ever. Everyone is readily giving out their data. Others are lured into providing their data with promises of enjoying discounted prices if they are registered as loyalty customers. The loyalty points earned are all the same as you telling the store “ at this point of the month exactly at 7 p.m., I will come for these snacks and other essentials since tomorrow I have a date.” The credit company can later advise the store to ensure that it stocks flowers since you are more likely to buy them on the following day for your date.

We live in a data era that has resulted in the loss of privacy, not only data privacy but personal privacy as well.

Data regulation idea.

Luckily for us, there is a chance to remain a little safe. Countries and legislators have worked toward establishing data regulation policies which are aimed at regulating and controlling how this information that is readily provided by the public can be protected. The policies, in general, protect the data on the basis of regulating how the data is transmitted, shared, and consent on its use. (I am sure we mentioned this earlier, but there is no harm in repeating). With these regulations, however, there are still numerous loopholes that can be witnessed. While some policies restrict on what data can be collected and the consent that is needed before the data is collected, companies make sure to complicated the consent acquisition process by hitting you with thousands of words in their terms of agreement which very few people, unless they have run out of reading material read.

The idea of data privacy in this era is, therefore, a battle between the corporations, the regulations, and the persons on what data is provided or how it is protected. While the government struggles to limit the amount of data that is collected on a person, the corporates are busy looking through the loopholes to make sure they can collect as much data as possible — and yes, as a person, you are left with either not using a product to protect your information or using the product and risk giving out your data.

But is this all bad?

Look at it this way, when the local store knows when you might need something, they will make sure that you won’t lack the product on the shelves. This is advantageous since the struggle has been largely reduced. Similarly, the health industry can understand the health habits of its people and create policies that will enhance and control the health of its people. What if the government and the use of data? Cases of food insecurity can easily be solved by understanding the different characteristics of the people. If you knew how much food you are likely to consume within a given period, it would be possible to control how you spend your money on food. It would also be easy to save and accumulate some money in your savings account without the chances of suffering some deductions due to early withdrawals. The government can as well use the data about the people in the country to budget on what amount it will spend on its people for food and health. All these are examples of the use of data. But data privacy is necessary altogether. People need to be protected. People need to protect their data and not go around, giving it out freely. People are making money out of what they know about you.

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AfriTech is a community of Tech enthusiasts, Developers and Data Scientists and Cyber Security professional. We are creating an ecosystem to communicate Technology in it’s various forms by African Techonology Enthusiasts.

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Eliud Nduati

Eliud Nduati

Data Scientist | Storyteller | Knowledge Hunter. https://linktr.ee/3liud

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