Personal data represent both valuable and sensitive goods nowadays.
However, only a few of us fully realize what this term really means.
The answer is simple: all information we reveal about ourselves and
also those data that can be observed and derived from our interactions with modern communication technologies. And not just with them.
The only way how not to reveal any personal data is to avoid these modern technologies and stay at home. But that is not practically possible. We cannot refrain collecting our personal data. It is enough to use a mobile phone, have a bank account, use a credit or a customer card, work on a computer or just borrow books in libraries.
The good news is that thanks to the new European legislative known as GDPR, each EU citizen has the right to access all kinds of his or her personal data. When we claim the access, we can do whatever we want with our data. It means that we can save them, examine them or pass them to other subjects. It can be done for free or for money.
Imagine that you visit your doctor and fill up an online questionnaire which should check up if you do not suffer some mental disorder. All you state in the questionnaire ends up in a database, including the information about your family anamnesis and the number of your children. However that is not enough for the data systems. The database also „knows“ how long did you fill up the questionnaire and which part was the most difficult for you. And if you fill it up too fast, doctors can conclude that the data, revealed by you, are not very trustworthy. You can earn a label called tag, saying that even you are not trustworthy. And that you do not provide reliable information.
How is this possible? The reason is that personal data do not represent only those which you reveal but also any information that can be observed (for example how fast you fill up the questionnaire) or so called derived data (tag of trustworthiness).
What does the law say?
It defines personal data as any information about an identifiable person. The main identifiers are our names, birth numbers, e-mail addresses, places of residence, interfaces we use for entering websites and many other data. It can be for example our gender, age or the information if we are married or single. If you carry a business as a natural person, your personal data include the address of your company or office, VAT and many other data from various public registers.
Also genetic information represent personal data. Above all they contain the information about inherited or gained genetic markers, your current medical condition, mental or physical health. Also biometrical data, resulting from the processing of your physical and physiological markers, are your personal data. It can be your face picture, finger-print or signature.
Then we get to sensitive personal data — the information most of us do not like to share. It can be your racial or ethnical identity, political views, religion or philosophy, sexual orientation, criminal delinquency or the information about a final judgement.
Observed and derived data
What else belongs to our personal data? For example the information about our e-mail communication, social media interaction and telephone calls. Which topics we discuss and what websites we tend to visit. Data systems are interested in these kinds of information as they can examine you thanks to them. They have enough information. They use any data from your computers, telephones, credit and customer cards. Do you think this is impossible?
Then you should wake up to reality. Derived data are those the data systems have derived from your provided or observed information. If you for example like to visit websites about dogs you can be sure that sooner or later you start to receive advertisements of dog food in your e-mail or classical post box. And the simple reason is that data systems have derived from your activities on the internet that you are dog owners.
Another example: several British insurance companies decided to conduct an interesting experiment. As soon as a client asks for an accident insurance, they firstly examine his or her profiles on social media. If they find some vulgar expressions there — idiot, asshole, imbecile, halfwhit and so on — or emotive sentences — I will kick you in the teeth, a cow behind the wheel and so on — they refuse to provide the insurance or offer them much more expensive one. They suppose that clients who are not able to control their emotions, represent a higher risk of accidents and also higher probability of the insurance coverage.
What does it all mean?
Our personal data that we reveal through our digital footprints, are very valuable for many companies and organizations. Much like the fact that it is our fault to turn them adrift to data collectors and those people who use our data for their own purposes. It does not matter if we provide these data ourselves or if they are observed or derived. The personal data advisor Datari and its web/mobile application helps to make personal data retrieval and understanding easier for people.