Data is what helps uniquely identify an entity in this world. For instance, every person who visits a hospital would provide the following:

  • Name
  • Blood type
  • Health history
  • Allergies
  • Insurance validity
  • Identity information
  • Payment information

It’s important to consider these as sensitive information, because wrongfully disclosing such data could lead to identity-based attacks or spam messaging.

It’s essential to keep data private and only share what’s necessary with third parties. This can be achieved through techniques like data anonymization, but it’s also important to make sure that sensitive data is stored securely and privately to preserve confidentiality, integrity, and availability (CIA).

Data Requiring Privacy

When working with data, it’s important to understand that there are specific types of data that you must keep private and not disclose to any third party.

These include:

1. Personally Identifiable Information (PII)

PII can be used independently or with other data to identify, contact, or locate a single person. Examples include:

  • Names: Full name, maiden name, mother’s maiden name, or alias.
  • Personal identification numbers: Social Security number (SSN), passport number, driver’s license number, taxpayer identification number, patient identification number.
  • Address information: Street address, email address.
  • Personal characteristics: Photographs, fingerprints, handwriting, or other biometric data (e.g., retina scans, voice signatures, facial geometry).

2. Sensitive Personal Data

This subset of personal data includes information about an individual’s race, ethnic origin, political opinions, religious beliefs, trade union membership, genetic data, and biometric data.

Simply put, this data can be used to create a better profile for a person.

Such data includes:

  • Health records: Medical histories, test results, diagnoses, treatment information, mental health
  • Genetic and biometric data: DNA sequences, facial recognition data, fingerprint data
  • Political affiliations: Membership in political parties, affiliations with political movements or groups
  • Religious or philosophical beliefs: Information about an individual’s religious sect, philosophical beliefs, or affiliations

3. Financial Information

Next, there’s financial information. This is highly sensitive and should be protected at all costs.

Simply put, financial information helps identify an individual’s financial status and can be used maliciously.

Such data include:

  • Bank account details: Account numbers, credit/debit card numbers, loan information.
  • Investment records: Stocks, bonds, and any other investment details.
  • Income and credit history: Salary information, credit reports, and credit scores.

4. Location Data

A person’s location is sensitive to them. Not everyone would be comfortable sharing their location or addresses with strangers. Therefore, this type of data should be treated as sensitive.

Such data include:

  • GPS data: Data collected from smartphones and other GPS-enabled devices showing movements and locations visited
  • IP Addresses: Can be used to approximate an individual’s location to a city or region

5. Internet Activity Information

An individual’s internet presence is private. No one wants everyone to know the websites they might have visited, their search engine queries, or the types of people that a person connects with online.

If you’re collecting such data, make sure that it’s kept private. Such data include:

  • Browsing history: Websites visited, search engine queries
  • Social media data: Likes, comments, posts, and private messages
  • Cookies and tracking data: Information collected by websites to track online behavior and preferences

6. Employment Information

Finally, there is employment information. Employment information is crucial for recruitment agencies. So, it’s important that you don’t sell or disclose such data.

This could include:

  • Work history: Job positions held, duration of employment, reasons for leaving
  • Performance evaluations: Assessments of job performance, feedback, promotions, and demotions
  • Disciplinary records: Records of workplace conduct and disciplinary actions taken

Data Peace Of Mind

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Data Privacy Compliance

So, if you’re an organization that collects any of this data, it’s important that you remain data privacy compliant to guarantee to your customers that you aren’t disclosing or selling customer data to third-party businesses.

To do so, you’d have to adopt a data privacy compliance process that includes how you collect, process, and store data.

Process of Data Privacy Compliance

When you’re running an organization that handles sensitive data, it’s important to:

  • Understand and classify data: Identify and classify the types of data you collect, focusing on personal and sensitive information that requires protection. This is important to understand the scope of your data privacy obligations.
  • Map data flows: Document how data moves through your organization, from collection to processing, sharing, storage, and eventual deletion. Understanding these data flows is essential for assessing risks and implementing effective controls.
  • Establish legal basis for processing: Determine the legal basis for each data processing activity, such as obtaining explicit consent from individuals, fulfilling contractual obligations, or complying with legal requirements.
  • Implement privacy policies and procedures: Develop and enforce robust data privacy policies and procedures that comply with applicable laws and regulations. These should cover data collection practices, consent mechanisms, data subject rights, data retention policies, and data breach response protocols.
  • Ensure data security: Adopt appropriate technical and organizational measures to protect data from unauthorized access, disclosure, alteration, and destruction. This includes encryption, access controls, and regular security assessments.
  • Train employees: Conduct regular data privacy and security training for all employees to ensure they understand their responsibilities and the procedures they must follow to protect personal data.
  • Monitor and audit compliance: Regularly review and audit your data processing activities and privacy controls to ensure ongoing compliance and to identify areas for improvement.

After you’ve defined a process for your data privacy compliance program (as discussed above), it’s important to consider three things:

1. Consent To Data

Before you collect any data, obtain clear, written consent from your users that their data will be collected. Additionally, it should define the types of data that are being collected.

Your users should also be able to withdraw their consent at any time.

2. Data Processing

Next, ensure that all data processing activities have a clear, lawful purpose and are conducted in a transparent manner. This means that your end user must be able to see how you process your data. Additionally, make sure to collect only what’s necessary.

3. Regulations: General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

Finally, when working with sensitive data, ensure that you comply with data protection regulations such as GDPR or the California Data Protection Act.

Compliance with the GDPR is mandatory for organizations dealing with data from the European Union. It involves adhering to principles such as:

  • Data minimization
  • Data accuracy
  • Consent
  • Transparency
  • Accountability

Organizations must also respect individuals’ rights, such as the right to access, rectify, delete, or port their data, and comply with requirements for cross-border data transfers.

Likewise, make sure that you stick to the regulations that are defined in your policy.

Wrapping Up

Data privacy compliance is not a one-time task but an ongoing process that requires constant monitoring, regular updates to policies and procedures, and a proactive stance on privacy matters.

By integrating privacy into your business, you can ensure that your organization not only complies with legal requirements but also demonstrates a commitment to protecting the privacy and trust of your customers.