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Why is Personal Data Valuable?

Is personal data really that valuable? Let’s break down what you need to know about personal data as a business or organization leader.
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Why is Personal Data Valuable?

For a variety of reasons, a consumer’s personal data is extremely valuable to organizations. Data is, at its essence, a resource. Information has always been valuable throughout history. From covert meetings to strategic placement, the side with the most information, the best understanding of the playing field, and the ability to alter their tactics in response to that knowledge will win. The way your data is used and valued is largely determined by the organization's goals. Various platforms, businesses, and even criminals make use of that resource in a variety of ways.

The way you use your customers’ personal data matters. Just as well, the way you protect that personal data also matters. Organizations are subject to compliance with the GDPR, a European-based but globally relevant law that notes how personal data should be used and protected by an organization.

In this guide, we’ll explore what personal data is, why it is valuable, its relationship with the GDPR, and how to protect your customers, or your own, personal data from criminals. Let’s start by defining personal data.

What is Personal Data? 

The best definition of personal data was originally written by the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR. The GDPR’s definition of personal data is the one most relevant to business and organization leaders that deal with personal data.According to the GDPR, any information relating to a recognized or identifiable person is referred to as personal data. This is the simplest way to define personal data, but it can actually be a lot more complex than that.

The owners of personal data are considered “identifiable” if they can be identified directly or indirectly by some piece of information, for example, by a name, identification number, location data, online identifier, or one of several special characteristics that express the physical, physiological, genetic, mental, commercial, cultural, or social identity of these natural persons. In practice, this includes all data that is or may be associated with a person in any way. Personal data includes things like a person's phone number, credit card number, or personnel number, as well as account data, license plate number, appearance descriptions, customer number, and address.

Because "any information" is included in the definition, one must infer that the word "personal data" should be construed as broadly as feasible. This is also implied by European Court of Justice case law, which recognizes less explicit information as personal data, such as work time recordings that contain information about the time when an employee clocks in and clocks out of work, as well as breaks or periods that do not fall within work time. 

IP addresses can also be considered personal data if such addresses are shared with an organization. This is also personal data if the controller has the legal option of requiring the provider to supply extra information that allows them to identify the individual behind the IP address. It's also worth noting that personal data does not have to be objective. Personal data might include subjective information such as views, judgments, or estimations. As a result, an evaluation of a person's creditworthiness or an employer's appraisal of work performance falls within this category.

Last but not least, the legislation stipulates that material for a personnel reference must pertain to a living individual. In other words, information on legal entities such as businesses, foundations, and institutions is not protected by data protection laws. Protection for natural individuals, on the other hand, begins with legal competence and ends with it. In essence, a person gains this privilege at birth and maintains it until death. To be deemed personal, data must be assignable to named or identifiable living people.

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The Value of Personal Data 

The appropriate use of personal data enables us to detect patterns of misuse, such as discriminatory pricing for health insurance or commodities, and to take steps to avoid such activities, allowing citizens to benefit from their data.

From an organization’s standpoint, personal data can be used for many different things. Personal data allows organizational leaders to understand more about the behaviors and needs of their customers. Personal data can be used to stay ahead of the competition and to ensure that the products and services offered align with the needs of consumers.

There are clearly many reasons why personal data is important. In that same vein, personal data privacy is also important. Bad things may happen when material that should be kept secret and safe falls into the wrong (criminal) hands. A data breach at a federal or government organization, for example, may provide hostile access to top-secret material that could put citizens in danger. A data breach at a company might put confidential information in the hands of a rival. A school security breach might put kids' personal information in the hands of criminals who could utilize it for identity theft. PHI (i.e. personal health information under HIPPA) can also get into the wrong hands if a hospital or physician’s office suffers from a data breach.

How to Protect Personal Data from Criminals

There are a number of things organizations can do to protect personal data from criminals. Specifically, aligning your data privacy strategy with the GDPR is an excellent way to protect sensitive data.

To begin, promote awareness within your organization. Key employees and decision-makers at new firms and startups should be informed of the legislation so that they can comprehend the possible effect and identify areas that need to be addressed for compliance. Conducting and mandating security awareness training for all company employees is a great way to ensure that each person has been briefed on data protection best practices. 

After that, conduct security and data audits. Accountable HQ can work with you to make this complicated process a whole lot easier.  Keep track of what personal information you have, where it originated from, and with whom you share it. Another strategy to decrease instances of misused or at-risk data is to keep your privacy notice up to date. When you collect personal data, you'll almost certainly utilize a privacy notice that includes information like your identity and how you plan to use their data.

On top of all of this, your ultimate objective should be to keep your company safe as a whole. To keep cybercriminals out of your client's personal information, use firewalls, security protocols, and malware detection software.

Lastly, investing in the aid of a risk and compliance software company like Accountable HQ can make the process of protecting personal data much easier.

Attacks on Personal Data are on the Rise

The growth in data breaches is mostly attributable to a succession of unprotected cloud databases, rather than data breaches themselves. In 2021, the overall number of cyber attack-related data compromises was up 27% compared to 2020. Phishing and ransomware remain, by far, the most common threat vectors. To prevent being a victim, it's critical to update your data privacy plan.

How was our guide to the value of personal data? Don’t forget to get in touch with Accountable HQ today to learn more about how our tools and team can help you achieve data compliance in your industry.

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