A Deep Dive into Personal Information Privacy and How to Stay Protected

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Managing your personal information privacy is crucial. Discover the latest digital safety measures and steps to stay protected online.

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Now, more than ever, consumers need to prioritize their personal information privacy. Not only are bad people on the interwebs trying to hack apps and organizations to get access to personal information, but your data has become a commodity to enterprise marketing. 

A few years ago, John Thornhill wrote about the role platforms like Facebook can have in program development. He wrote, "The most valuable asset that Facebook possesses is the data that its users, often unwittingly, hand over for free before they are in effect sold to advertisers. It seems only fair that Facebook makes a bigger social contribution for profiting from this massively valuable, collectively generated resource."

In 2011, The World Economic Forum classified personal data as a new Asset Class along with property, investments, cash, etc. It's valuable, and advertisers know it. Only recently, within the last year or two, have protections been established in legislation to protect personal information. It's still not protected across the board. As a result, you need to be diligent about how you share your information and with whom you share it. 

The Gretel Promise on Personal Information Privacy 

At Gretel, we vow to never share or sell our users' personal information. Personal information privacy is one of our top concerns. That's why we are committed to helping our users regain ownership and control of their data. It's no wonder social networks, search engines, advertising platforms, e-commerce sites, data brokers, and others that own, control, and profit from your data don't want us to succeed. They're earning 10's of billions of dollars (and growing) because of the value of personal information. 

Again, that's why it's so important to be diligent about your information and only trust tools that promise not to sell it. 

Understanding Personal Information Privacy in Today's Digital Age

A Cloud of Uncertainty

Pew Research Center surveyed American adults and found that most feel they have little or no control over how companies use their personal information. In fact, 79% of Americans say they are not too or not at all confident that companies will admit mistakes and take responsibility if they misuse or compromise personal information. Also, 69% report having this same lack of confidence that firms will use their personal information in ways in which they will be comfortable. 

Why then, are so many people blindly handing over control of their personal information? One reason is that we've grown accustomed to these agreements that it's easy to gloss over details. 

In fact, that same Pew survey revealed that 97% of Americans come in contact with privacy policies, yet only about one-in-five adults say they always (9%) or often (13%) read them before agreeing to them. Some 38% of all adults maintain they sometimes read such policies, but 36% say they never read a company's privacy policy before agreeing to it.

At this point, we know your personal information is valuable. We know that it's as valuable as cash, according to the World Economic Forum. Do your due diligence and read the privacy policies. Inform yourself. Sure, you may still choose to approve them, but at least you'll know exactly how your data is being used. 

Current State of Privacy Laws 

Two years ago, in 2018, Europe set the stage for a new reality around personal protection laws. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) took effect in May 2018, extending the European Union (EU) jurisdiction beyond those countries. As a result, global businesses that sell to or have EU customers are subject to the GDPR. The GDPR sets forth rules about how companies treat the personal data of EU citizens, including those purchasing U.S. products or services or living in the U.S. Soon after, California and Vermont developed and enacted similar legislation. Now, more than 25 U.S. States have legislation around digital privacy. 

Check out all the details here if you're interested.

The Value of Your Phone Number

We believe that all of your personal information is important — especially your phone number. It's a unique identifier for you as an individual. Start treating it as such. For example, you wouldn't give your social security number out to anyone. We encourage you to do the same with your phone number. 

If you need more convincing, Brian Chen, a columnist for The New York Times, wrote about his experience sharing his phone number. He worked with Fyde, a company that helps organizations with an increasingly distributed workforce, mitigate breach risk by enabling secure access to critical resources. His connection at the company plugged his cell number into a public records directory. Soon, Fyde had a full profile of Chen — everything including his name, birth date, address, the property taxes he paid, and the names of family members. His resource than could have used that information to try to answer security questions to break into my online accounts. Or target his family and me with sophisticated phishing attacks. 

As you can see, this is nothing to mess around with. Think twice before sharing your phone number. At least make sure to get information on how it's used before doing so. 

Quick Tips for Maintaining Personal Information Privacy 

Luckily, keeping your personal information safe takes a bit of common sense, diligence, and reading. All things that are definitely doable from your perspective. Other tips include

  • Don't give out personal information over the phone, through mail or online unless you're 100% certain of the source
  • Safely dispose of all personal information (including on old computers, phones, and smartwatches)
  • Keep your passwords private and change them regularly
  • Don't share too much information on social media (even if your accounts are private)
  • Keep your social security number secure by being extra careful when you need to share it 

A Note on Data Encryption

It's important to make sure your data is encrypted when sharing online. Look for a "lock" icon on the status bar of your internet browser. That means your data is safe when it's transmitted. Look for the lock before you send personal or financial information online. 

When you're using Gretel, you can rest assured knowing that we encrypt all of your personal information. Everyone who uses our app benefits from data encryption. We also never sell your personal information. So you're completely safe with us! In fact, our peer-to-peer approach is so unique, it's patented. 

If you want to better secure your personal information privacy with a contact management solution, download Gretel today! It's one less place you need to worry about when sharing your data.

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