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Data privacy refers to the protection of personal information given to private organizations. Data privacy and data security are often used interchangeably, but they also differ. Data security refers to safeguarding data from hackers or other harmful intruders, while data privacy is all about how data is collected, shared, and used. It involves how information or data should be handled based on their relative importance. Personal data is any information pertaining to an individual, for example, their social security number, their medical records, their financial records, such as deposit account numbers, their credit card numbers, and even basic, but yet sensitive information, such as their full names, addresses and birthdates. A person’s data may also be used by companies to learn about their behaviour,  content, preferences, and anything else that can be used to learn valuable information about them. The inappropriate use of this data can have unexpected consequences for the person whose data is being accessed. 

Due to the many contexts in which people engage online, and the amount of data they provide to companies (sometimes large amounts), the issue of data privacy is becoming increasingly important. Some companies are often upfront with their customers about how they collect and use their data, and have a privacy policy in place to keep things fair. Personal data should be private and safe. If personal data is not kept safe and protected, people can be defrauded or harassed.  In recent years, thefts of identity, data breaches, viruses, and phishing scams have increased significantly. Criminals can use personal data to steal money from others by opening new accounts in their name, for example. They may also steal identities or defraud others by purchasing products online with a stolen identity. People may also use someone else’s personal information to harass them. When data that should be kept private gets in the wrong hands, bad things can happen. Data breaches can, for example, lead to an enemy state accessing top-secret information. Corporate data can also be leaked to competitors if a breach occurs.

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Amaka Odozi

Author Amaka Odozi

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