Data Privacy

I recently joined a local Toastmasters club. It is one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life. When you realize you need to work on something. There is no other way to tackle it, than, to act on it. For the longest time, I have realized the need to improve my communication skills. The need to put myself in an uncomfortable situation, to help me grow. Toastmasters club is the perfect platform to do just that! So far, I have given two prepared speeches at my club, this is the second one – that was a part of the Visionary Communication pathway.

What does data privacy entail?

To simply put, data privacy revolves around how companies legally collect, store, and possibly distribute data to third parties.

In today’s world, we heavily rely on electronic gazettes such as cellphones, tablets, computers. To fully utilize these devices, in some instances, we must allow these tools to collect our data. For instance, let’s say you’re trying to drive to Durham from Charlotte. In order to get the correct direction, you must enable your current location to be detected. So, your device can give you real-time direction (if you were using your cell phone app). You don’t have to do that, you can also print the direction ahead of time, but what if you end up taking the wrong exit? Then, again, you have to re-enter the information. If you allow the device to detect your location, it will automatically recalculate and re-calibrate the right direction for you.

Similarly, if you are trying to book an air flight, you may have to enter some personal information, in order to validate that you are indeed you. Therefore, in many cases, we willingly share our personal information for the purpose of identity verification or for convenience.

Hence, in today’s age, data is one of the most important assets to any organization. Companies such as, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, and others continuously collect your data to primarily improve their designs, user interface, and user experience. But the bigger question however is; what else are they doing with your data? Especially, if they are selling your data to 3rd parties – there clearly needs to be more transparency around that transaction.

As more companies use or share your data, more questions are going to arise. Are you comfortable with tech giants using your data? Are you comfortable with these companies selling your data and making a profit off of your data?

Hence there are various arguments around this idea of data privacy. Some people are completely okay with it, some are not. Some are even saying, if companies are making money selling my data, maybe I deserve a certain percentage of that profit too. That sounds like a completely valid argument.

As of now, there is no comprehensive federal law that protects all Americans from data privacy. There are state laws, but not stringent enough to hold all companies accountable. However, there are legislative proposals being forwarded with stricter parameters to protect consumer information. But nothing has been finalized yet. Still having said that, there are two states in America that are already ahead of the game: California and Virginia.
In Virginia’s case, their Consumer Data Protection Act (CDPA) will go into effect in January of 2023. There are many requirements around which companies must comply with this law and how it will directly affect the consumers. But to give you a gist, what it means is: if you are a resident of one of these two states: you can ask the companies what kind of personal information they have of you, you can even ask them to delete your personal information off of their database or even ask them to not sell your personal information.

As more and more companies use or misuse your data or more users become aware of data privacy – it’s also opening a door to new kinds of technologies. We all use the Google search engine tool on a day-to-day basis – it’s the most widely used search engine in the world. But if you’re tired of Google constantly stalking you, you can use alternative search engines that are gradually growing in popularity such as duckduckgo.
If you are tired of your email services, constantly sending you ads – now you can sign up for paid email services such as – they don’t just boast in not-stalking-you, also blocks email from reaching you that has spy pixels.

So that’s where America stands today in terms of data privacy. Five or ten years down the line. I definitely see America adopting more stringent rules in place to protect consumers and their private information, possibly following the footsteps of European nations. Allowing users/consumers more control over their data.

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