Get Personal with your Data

personal data
7 oct 2015

Get Personal with your Data

By Jean Christofferson

Do you know where your data is? If you live in Europe it might get a little easier to find out. The European Court of Justice ruled that the so-called safe harbor agreement was flawed because it allowed American government authorities to gain routine access to European's online information. The court said leaks from Edward J. Snowden, the former contractor for the National Security Agency, made it clear that American intelligence agencies had almost unfettered access to the data, infringing on European's rights to privacy. The data includes search history, social media posts, what you looked at, like the 3 am cat video, and what you didn't interact with.

So what will change? At the moment Facebook and Google are continuing to collect, store and monetize all your personal data. Box has already announced they are opening a European data center, so European data centers may win. Using European data centers might protect your data from some prying eyes, but it really doesn't address the central issue: you don't know what data is collected about you, who has that data, where it is stored, and how it is used. You have no ability to delete it.

So who cares if you watched a cat video? Maybe you will now get ads for cat food. But it isn't just the cat video. It includes other information such as your location at a point in time. It is the aggregate of data collected and stored without your understanding. Yes, you did click to accept a privacy policy, but almost no one reads them. Most people don't think about all the tiny bits of data being collected to build a profile.

In May of 2014, European courts ruled that people have a right to be forgotten. In the year since that ruling, Google has received over 325 thousand removal requests, of which more than 99 percent of the links removed were those that showed off private personal details. So we now have an option to delete some personal data but it is not enough. Where is the clear and delete option for all of our online activites?

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