Privacy Policies and Data

Data privacy is a burgeoning issue that is becoming more and more of a burden on organizations as not only the amount of data under management increases, but the velocity of new data arriving increases.

In this networked world, in which we are thoroughly digitized, with our identities, locations, actions, purchases, associations, movements, and histories stored as so many bits and bytes, we have to ask – who is collecting all of this – what are they doing with it  – with whom are they sharing it?  Most of all, individuals are asking ‘How can I protect my information from being misused?’  These are reasonable questions to ask – we should all want to know the answers.

There are more than 30 federal statutes and over 100 state statutes governing information privacy in the U.S. The approach has been piecemeal in protecting privacy. The European Union, on the other hand, has adopted a Data Protection Directive requiring its member countries to adopt laws that implement its terms. The Directive creates rights for persons about whom information is collected, known as “data subjects.” Entities that collect information must give data subjects notice explaining who is collecting the data, who will ultimately have access to it, and why the data is being collected. Data subjects also have the right to access and correct data about them.

There is even a Data Privacy Day[1] the purpose of which is to celebrate the dignity of the individual expressed through personal information.

The recent bankruptcy of Borders Books provides an example on the impact of privacy policies on corporate data. As part of Borders ceasing operations, Barnes & Noble, a competing bookseller, acquired some of its assets including Borders brand trademarks and their customer list. Their first course of action, however, was to alert the customers as to their rights. The e-mail I received stated:

“It’s important for you to understand however you have the absolute right to opt-out of having your customer data transferred to Barnes & Noble. If you would like to opt-out, we will ensure all your data we receive from Borders is disposed of in a secure and confidential manner.”

This is one example of how privacy policies can impact the job of database administration and corporate data experts. Of course, you may never work for a company that goes bankrupt, but your company may decide to retire applications and data due to legal regulations, business conditions, or mergers.

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About craig@craigsmullins.com

I'm a strategist, researcher, and consultant with nearly three decades of experience in all facets of database systems development.
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One Response to Privacy Policies and Data

  1. Sandra says:

    I learnt about the Data Protection Act while I was doing my degree in the UK.
    Soon after, I came back to my country, I realised that data protection is still foreign in most undeveloped nations.
    I was managing an occupational database for one of the best companies in xxx, and medical information was meant to be confidential but my boss was often doing what he thought it was right.
    There were two employees with the same name, and my boss disclosed private information to the wrong person. One of them had HIV. The whole health system was designed so poorly that the one who had the illness received a swine flu vaccine. I know this is more medical stuff but people with HIV generally have low immune defence.
    Because my boss was not aware of any type of Data Protection and Privacy:
    1. A person with a low immune defence received a vaccination.
    2. Other employees are now aware he’s got HIV.
    If this person wants to sue the company, he will probably lose his job because there isn’t a Data Protection Act or something similar. Just my thoughts anyway.
    I always read your post and found them so useful.
    Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

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