Category Archives: Guest Post

Analysis: The pros and cons of privacy and data protection laws

The starting point for most privacy and data protection laws is creating a safer environment for all of us and our personal data – but the inevitable overreach often has far-reaching consequences

Most privacy and data protection laws have the noble aims of making us and our personal information safer – but overreach in the detail is a common side effect of attempts to do the right thing.

The consequences of this legal overreach can themselves be far-reaching – not just to personal privacy, but to technological innovation as a whole, if creators and those with grand ideas feel stifled by the competing needs of overlapping legislation.

The worst case scenario? Potential stagnation for technological innovation.

The broad scope of privacy and data protection laws is generally to ensure the free flow of personal data between the member states, while their ultimate purpose is to regulate how such data should be processed in order to maintain a balance between the various interests of the personal data ecosystem.

Of course, constant fluctuations in both technological and socio-economic contexts make achieving these grand aims a challenge. Regulation is always lagging behind new technological and market challenges, even as it struggles to keep up.

As Maria Macocinschi, who is studying for a doctorate in law at the University of Turku in Finland, notes: “The rigidity in revising and adapting the laws to the fast technological and economic developments is creating frustrations not only for consumers but also for companies.”

She also cites the much-praised General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which comes into force in May next year, as a well-intentioned law that may have adverse side effects.

She said: “GDPR, for example displays two contradictory trends. While it ensures a simplification of the regulatory environment and harmonisation of the standards, it also poses additional burdens and costs for companies. Therefore, the free flow of information might be quite affected by these overwhelming obligations.”

Regulation is inevitably deeply complicated, balancing as it must the conflicting interests of the various parties involved (public and private institutions, and consumers) as well as translating more traditional human values in a constantly changing digital environment.

Laws around surveillance are a good example of clashing interests and values: while surveillance such as CCTV is employed primarily for the protection of the citizens for security reasons, the same technologies are now being used in ways that seem to undermine the same values once sought to be protected.

Countries like China, for example, are trying to use technology that will predict when a crime is going to take place, before it even happens – the very stuff of sci-fi films.

The potential for horrifying consequences for those caught up in it makes it increasingly important that surveillance, and the emerging dataveillance phenomenon, should be carefully regulated to ensure a balance between the public interest, the economic rights of companies and the individuals’ privacy and data protection.

In terms of increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of current data protection laws, Maria says there are three broad areas that should be considered:

  • We need to look at how traditional legal concepts should be revised, taking into account the current state of information innovations
  • We need to look at how we regulate the emerging actors in this burgeoning ecosystem, as well as the new methods of collecting and processing data.
  • We also need to reframe the importance of the legal requirements for consent in the intensified and opaque dataveillance systems.

So how do we balance the necessary values and rights for the democratic functioning of the society with preserving personal privacy? This, of course, raises questions of how much privacy is desirable, legally and otherwise?

As with so many other things, regulation initially and superficially seems to be the natural answer here – providing guidelines for the protection of individual interest and public good. However, the law by itself cannot achieve this goal.

Furthermore, the extent to which we all, as consumers, promote and open up our own private lives through social media poses its own problems. The internet is a growing force in all our increasingly transparent lives. With the big data crunching capabilities of all the information we have willingly or unknowingly put out there, the ability for public and private actors to know far more about us than we are comfortable with has never been more real. Our identities, behaviours, transactions and other preferences and vulnerabilities are all gathered and exploited for various obscure purposes.

Again, legislation such as the GDPR is trying to address this, by putting more power over personal information back in the hands of consumers – but here too, law-making inevitably runs behind real life, meaning we are always struggling to keep up.

A new right to data portability (Art. 20 GDPR) and a revised right to be forgotten (Art. 17 GDPR) are aiming to build a stronger protection for the data subject and redress consumer sovereignty. However, such powers for individuals are not absolute. The interest in the protection of information privacy will always be balanced against other public interests as necessary in a democratic society (Recital 73 GDPR).  

So how should we try and find this balance moving forwards?  Maria has three key suggestions.

She said: “Balancing conflicting interests is difficult but not impossible. A first step would be educating individuals about what informational privacy is and the real benefits and consequences of sharing personal information. In a democratic society, a person should not isolate herself from the rest of the community, but rather participate and contribute to the decision making.

Therefore, data protection regulations should not be perceived as tools facilitating the invisibility of the individuals to the rest of the world. Rather, they provide the necessary measures to ensure their safe participation in the society. Disclosing personal information is a requisite for identification in a digital environment of disappearing bodies, and for effectively communicating their consumer preferences to the companies.

Secondly, each participant in the personal information ecosystem should acknowledge the importance of privacy intermediaries. For controlling and managing their personal data, individuals need the technical architectures (such as digi.me) and supportive guidelines (privacy guardians).

The technological development should not be perceived by consumers and legislators as a big threat to privacy and personal data. While technology might pose some risks, it can also provide useful solutions for the protection of individuals and their fundamental rights. Therefore privacy and sharing are not foes, but complementary to each other. “

This blog is a joint venture between digi.me and Maria Macocinschi

data privacy

Guest post: how to protect your personal data when disposing of computers

Cassie Phillips is an internet security enthusiast and digi.me blog fan who specialises in cybersecurity and technology and writes at securethoughts.com/express-vpn-review

Most people wouldn’t get rid of their credit cards, Social Security cards or even sensitive paper documents by throwing them out or tossing them in the trash. Yet careful souls across the globe continue to fill landfills with millions of old computers containing exactly that kind of sensitive information, in the process exposing themselves to aggressive high-tech criminals.

Latest statistics indicate that computers are being mined by the millions for bank statements, business documents, Social Security numbers, scandalous pictures and information, credit card details and numerous other tidbits that open the door for everything from full-on identity theft to credit card fraud and even blackmail.

No one needs to be a victim. Here is how you can protect your personal data when you are scrapping or passing your computer or computer related technology, such as external hard drive or USB stick, along to someone else.

Back up your data

Begin the process by copying all of the important data you will need in the future somewhere safe. This can be on your new computer or storage device. Be sure that the storage device is capable of storing all of the data that you need to back up. You may also opt to back up your data in the cloud. Cloud backup strategy involves sending a copy of your data over a public network to an off-site server.

In addition, try to be as safe as possible if you are transferring or emailing them to an online backup, such as cloud storage, especially if you are doing so on the go or in a public setting.

Permanently erase your data

Simply moving your files into the trash or recycle bin and emptying it isn’t enough to permanently delete them. In fact, when you place files in the recycle bin, you are simply marking them to be written over. And unless they are written over, the files remain on the computer’s hard drive. That means anyone who gets hold of your computer can retrieve them using advanced techniques such as hard disk forensic analysis.

For ultimate safety, you need to wipe your drive with a dedicated file deletion software or program, or physically destroy the hard drive to render it useless. Programs such as WipeDrive V5, Nova Drive Erase Pro, CCleaner or Darik’s Boot and Nuke—a DBAN—will overwrite all sectors on your hard drive making data unrecoverable.

Please note that destroying the hard drive isn’t simply throwing it away—it needs to be literally broken up. Hammering or axing the drive should do the job (with much more fun), but if you are unsure of how you’ll dump the metal and plastic pieces in an environmentally-friendly manner, seeking the services of a disposal facility or a computer security firm that uses industrial-size shredders to grind the drive to nothing, might be a good idea.

Encrypt your files

Setting up encryption on your hard drive can also help to protect your data while disposing of your computer. Encryption secures all your files, including both current files and deleted files. PC owners can encrypt with the BitLocker feature built into Professional versions of Windows or opt for the TrueCrypt that is compatible with all versions of Windows.

Encrypted files require an encryption passphrase to open or be accessed. And because the passphrase will be saved to your hard drive in encrypted form and only available when you sign on, the key won’t work if you are signed out or if the screen lock is on.

Try to self-recover your erased files

One way you can be sure that your drive was properly wiped out is by using a file-recovery program to test whether or not you can recover any erased files from your drive. A file recovery program will scan external or internal hard drives for erased files, display information about them, and allow users to recover them.

If your drives were thoroughly wiped, the recovery program should find no files you can recover. File recovery software was designed to execute the same sort of trick an attacker would employ to retrieve your data.

Conclusion

It is completely important to wipe out all the private and confidential data present on your drive such as Social Security numbers, credit card numbers and even pictures before disposing of your computer or PC. It’s is the only way you will be protected from attackers looking to prey on you.

Cassie Phillips is an internet security enthusiast and digi.me blog fan who specialises in cybersecurity and technology and writes at securethoughts.com/express-vpn-review

Guest Post: Social Media Forever Changes The Way We Explore History

Social media forever changes how we explore history.  That statement, while innocent enough, has profound implications for future generations.

I grew up learning history from textbooks and memorizing the exploits of explorers like Christopher ColumbusVasco Nunez de Balboa and Amerigo Vespucci who I remember writing a paper on. I know that today history is taught with a lot more attention to the every day people who lived rather than the famous ones but we still have so little information on the lives of the masses.  The everyday lives of most people is lost to us.  We see often see their lives through the eyes of those who wrote about them, not in their own words. Social media has changed forever the way we will record and learn history.

With the ability to record, photograph and video our daily lives, social media has given future generations a window into the everyday lives, thoughts and feelings of those that will come before them, “us”. Think of the wealth of information on social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest and others.  For many people these social media sites provide a platform from which to explore their feelings, relationships, beliefs, opinions and the simple nuances of their everyday lives. Future generations will know what we thought about everything simply by having access to social media platforms.

Think of the ability for a family to pass on this type of personal information to future generations.  It will seem as if you were actually listening to your great great grandmother when you didn’t have the opportunity to know her at all. To me this wealth of historical information is an invaluable role that social media will play over the coming decades.  Technology has made it possible to know the everyday lives of generations so that history does not depend on those in power to tell the story.  Nor will history books be able to gloss over events that are “unpopular” or show a negative slant on things.  With everyone a journalist, photographer and videographer, the voices and pictures of the past will speak for themselves.

I did an oral history project many years ago for college and I remember talking to a 90 year old woman about her life in Manchester, Connecticut.  I recorded our meetings and then compiled a paper which fascinated me because of its personal richness.  It was the ancient art of history through storytelling that could now be kept on tape.  How far we have come even in the last 20 years with technology and the emergence of social media.

A platform such as digi.me which allows us to save our social media content provides everyone with the opportunity to pass on a living diary of their life to their family members.  How incredibly powerful the access and control of this personal information will be not only to those using it in their time but to the vast accumulation of personal historical knowledge.

About the Author

PETS picture (3)Debbie Harris is the President of Performance Intermedia, LLC a social media consulting company.  Debbie works with businesses both for profit and not for profit to ensure they are getting the most out of social media and understand best practices.  She has a Master’s Degree in Social Media Compliance and the Law. Performance Intermedia, LLC provides social media strategy, graphic design, training, effective social advertising and posting for their clients. Debbie is a very active Rotarian both on the Club and District level. She sits on the Advisory Board for a local high school.  She has just completed an e-book on 7 Strategic Techniques for Gaining Clients from LinkedIn and writes for several publications.  Debbie does workshops and seminars related to social media and its effective use.  Debbie can be reached at Debbie@PImedia.me.