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Data Privacy Day, and Why Do We Need to Be Careful Online?

A future where machines control every human step is a favourite theme of science fiction writers. Many of them paint utopian worlds where people rest on the laurels of their achievements. Others say that the constant improvement of technology is leading civilization into trouble. 

Be that as it may, it is hard to imagine our lives without electronics: smartphones with online slots and Parimatch live casino, tablets with movies, computers with games, fitness bracelets and smart TVs. All of them collect, accumulate and analyze information. Recent developments show that it is only sometimes in your possession.

To draw attention to this problem, the European Council has declared January 28 as the International Day for the Protection of Personal Data. Let's talk about when humanity started collecting information, how it is used today, and what steps you can take to stay safe online.

Data Privacy Day

Why is humanity concerned about data protection?

The development of databases is inextricably linked to the name of the pioneer of computerization - IBM Corporation. Its engineer, Hans Peter Lun, suggested that computing machines could facilitate managerial decision-making. He suggested using computers to search for consistent patterns and create automated reports.

This idea was developed by an English mathematician, Edgar Codd, who developed relational databases. They allowed us to make quick queries and obtain information about individual products, company divisions and even specific customers. Big businesses immediately became interested in such programs.

Ready-made products appeared in 1978-1979. They were offered by the most influential players in the information market - IBM and Oracle. From that time, the collection of personal information began - first in the United States, then in Europe, and then all over the world. Representatives of the companies started to hand out questionnaires to regular and potential customers, as well as to enter each transaction into a computer database.

By the early 1990s, international corporations had learned to predict customer behaviour with an accuracy of up to 70%. Not without high-profile scandals - for example, one of the major U.S. retailers congratulated their pregnancy long before they decided to take a test. How did the analysts find out about it? Very simply - by the appearance of unusual products on the shopping list.

Successful prediction became a reality, so it was time to move on. At conferences, they began to talk more and more about modelling customer behaviour - directly interfering with the freedom of choice. It raised concerns - the future of information technology seemed less rosy when subjecting humans to mathematical algorithms.

A binding convention

Tracking the trends, the Council of Europe signed a convention, "For the Protection of Individuals about Automatic Processing of Personal Data", back in 1981. It established the need to:

  • lawfully obtaining information;
  • to store data in good faith;
  • prevention of unlawful use of information about a person. 

In 2007, the date of signing the Convention was recognized as the European Day for the Protection of Personal Data. On January 28, 2009, the USA, Canada, Japan and several other countries joined this initiative. On this day, various events are held to draw attention to the problem of unfair use of personal information.

Why has everything changed in the 21st century, and what can we do about it?

In the late 2000s, a fundamentally new trend in analytics emerged called Big Data. Its peculiarity was the consolidation of many disparate databases into one colossal array. Soon after, large companies began to use targeted advertising aimed at a specific person.

So what changed? Instead of sets of individual characteristics, business analysts began to see complete digital portraits of users. They learned to identify preferences in food, clothing brands, cars, and more. Big Data databases became one step closer to modelling behaviour. 

With this in mind, many countries worldwide passed amendments that banned the use of personalized information. They allowed only the collection, processing and storage of non-personalized details - that is, not tied to the identity of a particular person. This policy was adopted by all major corporations, including social network owners, smartphone manufacturers and operating system developers.

Unfortunately, unscrupulous companies have also appeared on the IT market. They set up the sale of databases to third parties who could use the information obtained for blackmail, fraud, stealing passwords and other illegal actions. Hundreds of thousands of people become their victims yearly, and the total damage from such activities is measured in tens of billions of dollars.

Data Privacy Day

What should you do to protect yourself from virtual threats? 

We have compiled several recommendations that will be useful for any user:

  • Enter the Internet only with antivirus turned on. This application will keep you safe from both malware and direct hacker attacks. You can download it both on your computer and on your smartphone.
  • Do not click on suspicious links received in private messages and emails. At a minimum, they may contain a tracker that tracks your IP address. At most - it is a virus that instantly locks up your operating system. 
  • If you have pages in social networks and accounts in messengers, make them as close to outsiders as possible. Even the time of your appearance on the web can be helpful for fraudsters. 
  • Do not give your smartphone and laptop to strangers. A few seconds can be enough to install a spyware program or copy essential files. 
  • Use original licensed software and update it regularly. Outdated versions of applications often have "holes" that hackers exploit. There are known cases of gaining complete control over a smartphone after a single call in messengers. 
  • Choose moderately complex passwords containing combinations of lowercase and uppercase letters, numbers and symbols. Update them at least once every three months. 

Following these tips will make you more likely to protect your personal data.

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