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Protecting your Personal Data

All individuals in most countries, technically, have legal rights to control the information which is being held about themselves, by other people, and organisations. 

This complex, overarching area of work (and study) in controlling, enforcing and protecting people’s “personal data” lawfully is simply, known as: Data Protection.

The legal frameworks on Data Protection vary from country to country. But in general; the basic overview, and principles remain the same across all nations, particularly for those countries in the developed world.

The key aim, and overall goal, of all data protection principles can be stated as: ‘to ensure that all information and data which are being held on all people are processed lawfully; at all times’.

Generally, these personal, individual legal rights apply only to those personal data which are held, (or intended to be held) on ‘computers’; or those that are held in a ‘relevant filing system’. 

These legal rights do not apply to the domestic use of people’s personal information, for example; where such details about other people (including friends and family members) are kept in a personal address book.

But a business’s paper address books that are used to support commercial activities, such as: a salesperson’s diary; or customer sales records; are classified as: ‘relevant filing systems’.

So in general, all businesses – or anyone – retaining, and holding on to, your personal data for any other purposes (other than for personal domestic use) is legally obliged to comply with their legal responsibilities, under their country’s laws.

Under most legal jurisdictions; a computer (that holds personal data) is defined as: “any equipment that operates automatically in response to the instructions that have been given, to it for that purpose”. 

As such, a computer (as defined under the law) includes a wide range of digital devices and computerised platforms such as: laptops; smart-phones; apps; software applications; the internet; social media sites; cloud computing; and Big Data algorithms.

Also, with the advent of AI – the term, “computers” – now includes: those graphic processors used by advanced AI machines; and similar machines operated by artificial intelligence, such as – robots, face recognition apps, voice recognition apps, blockchains, robotics, bots, driverless cars, and other deep learning devices.

So. ‘What really is known as, “personal data”?’ – Simply put. ‘Personal data is any data that can be used to identify a living individual’.

This answer brings up the next follow-up question; and that is: ‘Which types of “personal data” can be used to identify someone?’

The answer to this second question, is that: – “Individuals can be identified by various data, attributes, characteristics and means including; from one, or any combination, of the following items: the person’s name, address, date of birth, telephone number, email address, facial pictures, birth certificates, fingerprints, dental records, employment records, school records, and other records held in many other different sources“.

Where only a bit of data is held on someone, but not enough data, or sufficient data, to accurately identify the person; such data is classified as: a) anonymised data (or anonymous data); or b) aggregated data – depending on each specific case in question.

Over the past three decades; the global governance work carried out by various International Agencies and Quangos has resulted in most countries enacting their own legislation that now govern and enforce the protection, processing and movement of the personal data which is held on their citizens, and other people.

These national laws are based on the various entrenched global data protection principles; and – where enforced equitably, the laws provide an adequate scope of protection for everyone. The applicable Data Protection principles need to be explored in more detail, particularly within each country’s legal context.

TO BE CONTINUED. – Copyright: Daniel Obiago, 2017

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