Why is Data Privacy Important for Your Future?

Companies track more of your personal info than you think. Learn about the importance of data privacy and information security.
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Many of us spend hours on the internet each week, and with that browsing comes some threats to your sensitive data. Every site you visit can collect information about you and your browsing habits, including identifying information, shopping history, and account data. You should know what companies can do with your info and which laws regulate your data privacy.

Keep reading this comprehensive guide to learn how data privacy impacts your life every day, plus ways you can keep your data safe like using one of the best VPNs, antivirus software, or even ad blockers.

In this article
What is data privacy?
Why you should care about data privacy
Challenges to data privacy
Data privacy laws and regulations
Tips to protect your data
Data privacy FAQ
Bottom line

What is data privacy?

Data privacy relates to the control you have over your information. That includes how it’s collected, managed, and shared with and by the companies that have access to your data. You may not realize how much of your data gets shared by companies you visit, whether it’s online or at brick-and-mortar businesses.

Your personal data is the information that can be used to identify you. This includes the obvious info, like your birthday or financial information, but we often forget everything that companies can collect. This includes your political and spiritual views, health data, sexual orientation, and biometric data for identification purposes. These categories are considered sensitive personal data.

Think about something as simple as opening a social media account. Sometimes you have to accept a privacy policy before you can log in. Whether you read it or not, you may be agreeing to allow your private information to be shared with third-party companies.

Have you ever wondered how companies handle this personally identifiable information (PII)? There are regulatory laws that companies must comply with, depending on the industry. For example, there is a Fair Credit Reporting Act for sharing your financial data. Even so, that doesn’t mean businesses won’t find loopholes around these or that data breaches aren’t a risk.

Why you should care about data privacy

You may be so accustomed to browsing the internet that you don’t give a second thought to the data you enter. It may surprise you to know how much information you give to strangers, hoping that data won’t be misused. 

Not thinking about your data privacy can become a habit. You enter your debit or credit card information online, add your thoughts on social media, and answer quizzes about your wants and needs. The list is endless.

Data security vs. data privacy

Data security and privacy are terms that are often used interchangeably, but they aren’t the same. Data privacy looks at how your private information gets collected and shared with others. Data security focuses on the protection of that data and keeping it safe from unauthorized users.

That means that while you’re giving out information about your preferences, you’ll want to be aware of how that data is shared with other parties. While you’re signing up for the gym and there’s a paragraph about collecting data to help your goals, be sure you know what they do with that information. Data security is related to how these companies will protect the information you’ve given to them.

Your privacy is at risk

Suppose you’re on a nutrition website, and you find some vitamins you want to purchase. The website takes you through a quiz to find out what you need. Through this interaction, you enter your race, gender, and financial data. That’s a lot of information.

In the wrong hands, that transaction could put your data privacy at risk. You’ve shared several personal items on one website. Do you want all your personal likes and dislikes available for the world to view? Data privacy is crucial as a human right; you want to make sure your information is used only for the purposes you agree to and not others.

Did you know that each time you search Google for something, that query is stored? Your IP address can be accessed by online companies that track your searches. These companies can send customized ads by tracing your online browsing. 

If you think this isn’t a big deal, consider some of your recent searches. Ever had a medical issue you were embarrassed about and wouldn’t mention to your closest friends? Instead, you unknowingly shared it with strangers online through search engines or online shopping sites, which might be why you’re getting those popup ads for health products lately.

If you think that’s a bit shocking, consider the private data that can be found if companies track your information. For example, did you know that social media giant Facebook collects your personal messages and public comments?

By combining your purchasing methods, social media trails, and browsing history, these businesses build profiles of your online habits.

The more your data moves around, the bigger the chances of your information getting hacked or breached by a leak. Many tech companies make profits from selling your data to advertisers.

Challenges to data privacy

You can see how data collection and profiling can present some privacy challenges. How do you keep your information from being mishandled? Why are there so many risks concerning data privacy today? There are a myriad of challenges you may face in the digital age.

Online scams

Data breaches and cyberattacks are rampant these days. Phishing scams are common methods of tricking users into sharing too much information. Phishing scams generally have a link in an email that takes the user to a fake website. The website looks legitimate and asks for data like credit card numbers, passwords, or other private data.

The criminals behind the phishing attacks will use that information to make fraudulent purchases, hack your accounts, or commit identity theft.

Internet tracking

Most websites use cookies and web beacons to track your online movements. These technologies collect your data and monitor your online behavior. Sometimes this is legitimate, and the websites will notify you when you access them, but there are always exceptions. During those times, you are unaware that your data has been shared with other parties.

This also happens when you share information with an online retailer. Businesses can collect a slew of consumer data, including email addresses, purchase history, and how often users access the site or open marketing emails. 

Companies use this data to improve their business strategy, but they’ll often sell that data to third parties for marketing purposes. Before you know it, the data you entered to buy that new shirt has spread to several other companies you don’t know about.

Pro tip: You can use a data removal service like DeleteMe to search for your information online and get it removed. The service takes care of the manual work while you get your data scrubbed off the internet.

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Unclear social media privacy settings

If you use social media, you’ve probably seen some privacy policies that include ways to keep your data safer. The problem is these can be confusing at times, and the policies aren’t always clear regarding what is kept private and what is shared with third parties.

These unclear policies may lead to identity theft because you might not know what data is private and what’s being shared. Hackers can use your pictures and other information to make fake profiles to scam others out of money.

Data privacy laws and regulations

Data protection laws and privacy regulations have been enacted to protect consumer data. Legislation protects information and presents companies with agreements they must comply with when doing business to keep customer data safe. Laws vary by country and state, so look up the laws in your area to see how your data is protected.

General Data Protection Regulation

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a set of data privacy laws that address and protect personal information. It includes critical pillars that companies must follow to be considered compliant. That data includes anything that can be used to identify a person, like payment information and biometric data. Businesses must be transparent in how your data is used and can ask you only for information that meets a specific purpose.

While the GDPR is based in the European Union, if a business is in another country, but has European customers, that company must comply with the GDPR requirements.

California Consumer Privacy Act

The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) is similar to the GDPR laws. It sets the standards businesses are expected to follow regarding the data they collect. The CCPA protects consumers by giving them the right to delete information collected, opt out of information collected, opt in to the sale of information, and the right to know what data is collected. These standards extend to third parties who interact with that data. This act applies only to California residents.

Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act

The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA) is a federal law that requires financial companies to explain how their information-sharing practices work. These businesses include those providing loans, investment advice, and other financial products. The act further requires these institutions to safeguard any sensitive data for their customers. This applies to any financial institutions and businesses that receive a national identifier from nonaffiliated financial institutions.

Tips to protect your data

You can see why you don’t want your private information exposed to the wrong entities. It could have severe repercussions on your finances and personal life, but there are ways to protect your data and keep it safe. If you don’t want a data breach or your identity stolen, use these tips:

  • Secure your device: Antivirus software helps guard your information against hackers. We recommend TotalAV, Bitdefender, or Norton as some of the best antivirus programs.
  • Use a VPN: When traveling or using public Wi-Fi, always use a VPN for more security. A VPN can also allow you to be anonymous online. We recommend ExpressVPN, NordVPN, and CyberGhost for their dedication to keeping your data secure.
  • Don’t give out your SSN: Not everyone needs access to your Social Security number, so don’t provide it, or other sensitive information, without questioning why it’s needed.
  • Use strong passwords: Unique passwords help protect your information from unauthorized access. Don’t rely on something simple like your pet’s name or favorite team. You can also use a password manager, like NordPass or 1Password, to help you manage different passwords for different accounts.
  • Use multi-factor authentication: The extra security requirement from multi-factor authentication will provide another layer of protection for your data.
  • Check social media settings: Take some time to review your social media settings, and don’t overshare. Cybercriminals can use this data to steal your identity and other records.

Data privacy FAQ


What’s the difference between data privacy and data security?

Data privacy is how your personal information gets collected, used, and shared with other parties. Data security is how that data is protected from unauthorized access.


What are the seven principles of data protection?

The GDPR created seven principles of data protection: Lawfulness, fairness and transparency, purpose limitation, data minimization, accuracy, storage limitation, integrity and confidentiality, and accountability.


What is data privacy in healthcare?

Healthcare institutions are also concerned with data collection and storage of information. They follow HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. That is a federal law that determines how identifiable health information can be used.

Bottom line

Data privacy has become increasingly important as technology has evolved. Now it’s not as simple as locking away papers in a filing cabinet. There are numerous avenues to consider when assessing your data privacy.

You’ll be in good shape when you follow our guide for the best data privacy and security. After reading this article, don’t forget to check your passwords and social media privacy policies. You can also add that extra layer of protection by investing in a reliable VPN.

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Author Details
Patti Croft is a seasoned writer specializing in technology, with three years of experience. With a B.S. in Computer Science and a background as a technical analyst and security specialist, she covers a range of topics like data security and parental control software.