After the Facebook debacle a while back, people have begun taking serious interest in how their personal data is getting used and abused. So serious, in fact, that the European Union will soon be the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, strict laws governing precisely what Digital Companies can do with our information.
Granted, the laws themselves will only apply to EU residents, but so citizens of other countries will not be entitled to such privileges. However, since so many international companies do business with EU citizens, they’ll have to integrate this level of specific control into their systems if they want to avoid hefty fines, so it’s possible they’ll begin offering that same amount of control to all their users across the board. They might just have to, depending on how successful GDPR becomes and how many other countries begin enacting similar policies.
But GDPR’s success is the real question here.
The best of intentions can sometimes lead to the worst of circumstances, just look at how The United States’ SESTA Act attempted to combat sex trafficking yet has only caused an increase in sex-related crimes. Now that the big companies are desperate to avoid getting in trouble and paying fees, investment and development in privacy tech is surging. New programs and modifications must be made in order for company records to comply with the regulations, and privacy firms are jumping at the sudden desire for their trade, but this runs a risk of its own.
While the major companies are being placed under greater scrutiny, the software and tools they’re now utilizing can end up storing or even duplicating the very data they’re meant to be protecting. By installing windows to let the light in, companies essentially risk leaving the back door open for unscrupulous parties to take advantage of.
Mind you, there are well respected privacy firms who all stake their reputation on their discretion, assuring that these security fears are unfounded when it comes to doing business with them, but the danger still remains, and the fear in the public’s mind still persists. Just look at the online ordering fiascos, where people purchase what they believe to be quality merchandise from reputable vendors, only to end up with shoddy products dumped on their doorstep. The customer can try to complain, but the chain of ecommerce retailers and middle men who make these online marketplaces possible keep passing the blame from one link to another.
You can find just about anything on the internet if you know where to look, but accountability seems to be in short supply. Big companies are eager for us to hand over our most sensitive data, yet they throw up their hands and play the victim when they get hacked, even though we are the ones who end up suffering the most. Our emails can end up exposed, our shopping histories compromised, and our payment methods stolen, it’s just a fact.
You have every reason to fear these things happening to you, and you have every reason to be skeptical of GDPR’s ability to prevent it, but we have reason to take the chance. GDPR may not be able to fix the problems, but it could very well help change them, providing a sturdy foundation for future laws and programs to be built on that can do a better job.