Stand and Deliver – How Countries are Turning to Regulations to Protect Your Data

The hot commodity today is data. Whether it is from governments, companies or individuals, data is the heart of information.

Control data, and you control everything from elections, to buying habits, to location tracking and everything an individual or company can do in between. It is the new currency of the 20th Century.

Today, data is no longer just data. A perfect storm of protectionism and the advent of data as an internationally traded good requires business leaders, and politicians for that matter, to regard data as part of the supply chain. It should be subject to the same trade and regulatory patterns.

Data Usage

We’ve become blasé about how we use data. In fact, we have welcomed it into every facet of our lives with open arms, There are now more than 100 million Alexa devices in our homes – tracking our conversations in our living rooms, and even our bedrooms.

We’re all Zooming, or Facetiming, or Instagramming in the days of COVID-19 lockdown. It’s not just businesses who are relying on the new era of instant communications. Even our parents or grandparents are getting in on the act to keep in touch with family and friends.

It’s a new era of the modern communications network. We seem to be comfortable with tech in the home and business. But data also means money. It is the new oil or gold in terms of a commoditised value. Every keystroke, every website click, every social media interaction is a portfolio of information of an individual’s tastes, habits and, most importantly, buying power.

It is an advertiser’s dream. In an interconnected global network of trade, it should be easy for companies to trade flows of data too. But today, data is also the front line battlefield for the control of the world’s resources.

In an effort to curb the abuse or misuse of private data, many governments are putting extra protection methods in place. Because data, when it falls into the wrong hands, can become a commodity for hackers and cyber-criminals – the modern day highwaymen.

Data privacy

We all have to protect ourselves, whether in business or our personal affairs. Cyber-hacks are increasingly on the rise, especially in the days of the ‘Zoom Bomb’ where hackers are infiltrating video conference calls or online meetings.

The number of attack points has also increased, alongside the use of personal data devices and smart points. Juniper Research estimates there will be 84 billion IoT devices in use by 2020, every one of which is vulnerable to hackers.

What we do know is that the widespread adoption of personal computers, smart phones, the internet, e-commerce, smart devices and social media did not arrive with a parallel understanding of privacy fundamentals. Users and businesses need to know what to do to protect themselves, above all else.

Below are a few simple steps to improve data privacy at home or the office.

  • Check and adjust privacy settings in the privacy / security settings on browsers, social media apps and on mobile devices. That includes the device’s operating system, wireless carrier extensions, and the apps installed on the device.
  • Adjust security settings on every ‘smart’ device. If it’s connected to the internet, users need to understand and adjust its privacy settings
  • Pay attention to what the browser vendors provide in the way of privacy and security – keep in mind that when users ‘log in’ to applications, web site, or service, then the browser, and potentially the browser vendor, know what they are doing
  • Back up important data with strong encryption or through cloud services that promise privacy, security and redundancy
  • Use appropriate passwords, two-factor authentication, and password managers for common sense protection

The list may seem daunting but don’t despair. Investing a little time and common sense can bring peace-of-mind for those engaging in technology that surrounds us all. If in doubt, turn to Stay Safe online from the National Cyber Security Alliance for further guidance to navigate the a safe path for data protection in the age of isolationism.

Trading in data

 It’s widely accepted that free markets stimulate growth and in the past decade an unregulated data environment increased world GDP by 10% ($7 trillion). The implementation of regulations, such as the General Data Protection Act (GDPR), will put the brakes on the market and will reportedly cost the 27 nations of the EU more than $200bn, equivalent to 1.3% of GDP, primarily due to lost productivity and research.

Data, for all its interconnectedness, is not a free commodity throughout the world. Countries around the world offer varying levels of protection. The French independent regulatory body, the Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés, has mapped how regulations and protections differ around the world.

Today it’s all about the battle to control resources and spheres of influence in the modern-day economy. One that is ruled by data, rather than pure commodities – but one that could be as explosive to the economic structure as battles and wars have been.

By Rachel Roumeliotis, Strategic Content Director at O’Reilly

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