How technology can help consumers and businesses manage personal data online

How technology can help consumers and businesses manage personal data online

Gal Ringel, CEO and co-founder of Mine, shares the ways in which technology has the potential to support consumers and businesses in managing personal data. 

Can you imagine giving your contact details to 50 total strangers on the street? For most people, the idea sounds completely outrageous and arguably dangerous. However, we all do something like this regularly. Every time we enter our details on a computer screen – whether it’s to log onto free cafe wifi or pay for an air ticket on a travel website – we are handing over our data and giving someone else control over it all the time. 

Handing over your data isn’t the biggest problem; the problem is not getting it back when you’re done using the service. There is also a challenge for businesses to feel better connected to the privacy rights of their users and making them accessible. Nowadays, it is a necessity if we want to enjoy the internet to its fullest. What’s important is staying in control of that information by knowing exactly who has it and how to take it back when you need to, and for businesses – having an easy way to implement this.

In this article, I’ll look at the patterns in consumers’ digital footprints and examine the main concerns around keeping our data safe. I will then explain how, in conjunction with UK GDPR and similar regulations, tech can enable consumers to easily take back control of their digital footprint. I will explore how, by enforcing their’ right to be forgotten’ users can enjoy a value-based internet and why technology can also aid businesses to efficiently handle these data rights requests.

A closer look at data-footprints

How many times do you think you have given out your data and not asked for it back? Fact – our research found the average person has given out their data to 350 organisations. Considering how hard it would be for most people to name all 350 organisations (or even half of those), the reality is that most people don’t really know who holds their data, that’s why the right to access and the right to be forgotten is so important.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the average user’s digital footprint has increased by a whopping 55%. Even with things slowly opening up, the pandemic has created an acceleration of digitalisation and given consumers more access to doing almost everything online – whether its clothes shopping, streaming movies or ordering groceries – it comes as no surprise that people are giving out their data to more companies, making them more exposed than ever before. And so, it is imperative that we strive to reclaim our data and protect ourselves from the risks that come with oversharing personal information. If we wouldn’t expose ourselves like this to strangers on the street, why should we put ourselves at risk online? 

That said, the best way to protect your data is not to stop sharing it -which is impossible if you want to enjoy all the amazing things the internet has to offer – but rather stay in control of who we share it with. We found 80% of people’s digital footprint is with services they’ve only used once, and only 20% is for services they actually use and need. My advice is to share your data when you need to, but when you’re done using a service, and you no longer get value in return, make sure you take it back. Think about it like this; if it’s not on a company’s system, it can’t be breached. The good news is it is possible now, thanks to worldwide awareness, privacy regulations and the right tools.

The importance of regulations 

Thanks to the introduction of the GDPR three years ago, the protocols around the collection and holding of data have become more stringent, and companies must now be compliant when they are using the data of individuals. The 99 articles of the EU’s GDPR agreement set out how companies can collect and store personal, digital, genetic, and political data on individuals. Where before, companies had virtually free range to do anything with the data of individuals, now they are bound to give an individual their data back if they request it. 

GDPR has also kicked off a domino effect around the world. Since its introduction, it has been considered the general standard for data protection worldwide and inspired other legislations such as: UK GDPR, the CCPA in California and LGPD in Brazil. Clearly, the GDPR is here to stay, and individuals should use this to their advantage to take back their information once they are done with a service. Now, thanks to the GDPR we are equipped with the awareness and the legislation to claim back our data and we should all use this springboard to protect ourselves from data breaches, exercising our human rights to data protection. 

However, despite having all the right intentions, these regulations have very little guidance around them and do not provide a streamlined way for users to take back their data. Before Mine was founded, there was no easy way to discover who has access to your data, keep track of your digital footprint or reclaim your data (send right-to-be-forgotten requests) in an accessible, streamlined way.

The role of tech platforms to help consumers and businesses

Thankfully, with the right tools, regulations like GDPR can be enjoyed to their full extent. Users can take advantage of technology platforms that enable them to easily take ownership of their data by sending the company a data deletion request or” right to be forgotten” request. These requests can be sent to any company that the user wishes to have their data deleted from – meaning only the services that they really utilise hold on to their data.

For the company, a horde of right to be forgotten requests can be daunting, especially if they do not have technology in place to automate the process. In addition, handling data requests can be a time-consuming and repetitive process. The answer lies in a smart data assistant that connects consumers and companies around data privacy rights and in doing so, ensures no request is missed and time is saved in the process. 

Furthermore, privacy is a hidden gem when it comes to brand image. Nearly half of consumers will not purchase from a company that raises privacy concerns, and nearly 90% will be willing to share information only with brands they can trust – so more than the time saved, having the right technology to make privacy rights accessible and having the right measures in place will give any brand a competitive advantage in the eyes of consumers.

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I know how useful this technology already is for users, for instance, in just the 1.5 years since being founded, our platform Mine has helped over 280,000 consumers worldwide reclaim their data and manage their digital footprint. These users have made over three million deletion requests to reclaim data from more than 250,000 unique companies. I hope that more consumers will use the increased awareness around data privacy and regulations like the GDPR to take control over what happens to their data without it being a Herculean task. With the right technology platform, your data is at your fingertips, and as it rightfully should be, it is yours for the taking. 

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