In recent times, we have witnessed the emergence of a huge number of regulations about data privacy. Without going any further, we have the General Data Protection Regulation –RGPD– of the European Union, the California Consumer Privacy Law –CCPA– of the United States, etc. However, many times we are not entirely clear who has access to our personal data. And what do they do with them.

Basically, we could say that these data privacy regulations, like the GDPR and the CCPA, have very specific objectives. They are related to corporations disclosing, at the request of users, what personally identifiable information they record and store. In this way, any user can exercise their personal “Right to be forgotten”, and ask a court to delete that stored information.

Even since its arrival in May 2018, the GDPR has raised approximately 114 million euros thanks to the fines imposed. Among them we can mention that of 50 million euros from Google last year, as a result of its collection of data without prior consent. This, always in an attempt to provide the transparency that users need so much, as well as demanding responsibility from companies.

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But what about personal data?

Now, while the GDPR and CCPA can improve the status quo, they obviously cannot guarantee our privacy. In fact, if we go into practice, these regulations operate more on possible subsequent redress than on preventing personal data from being collected. Furthermore, we cannot lose sight of the fact that exercising the Right to be forgotten is not something particularly simple either. Multiple submissions are required to run.

At this point, we should probably ask ourselves… “Shouldn’t corporations proactively disclose how they use our data instead of us having to hunt them down to find out where this information is going?” Or, better yet, “Shouldn’t we be the only ones with access to our personal data?”

It is hoped that in the future, these laws point in exactly that direction. But with the slow pace shown by existing regulations, it’s not like we can trust ourselves in advance. After all, claiming our fundamental right to privacy is not easy in itself. So what alternatives are left?

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Thinking in the future

Looking ahead to the years to come, first of all we must look at the systems that will store our data. We find that most of them will be composed of hybrid environments, a combination of physical and virtual. That will allow everyone to be connected to each other. In this context, it is to be expected that the next decade will forever mark the way in which we understand personal data and its administration.

We say this because, today, we use basically the same information networks that emerged in the 1980s. At that time, the data found on the Internet was not personal data, but public information that was put in the hands of the Internet users, just a click away. But the situation has completely changed. Right now, almost all the data that goes around the web is personal.

These new challenges require, for that reason, to redesign our infrastructure, devices and applications with privacy as the highest priority. But will companies be so interested in it?

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Knowledge is power

Recent studies have shown that users’ concern about their personal data grows as they know what multinationals do with them. We could say, in another way, that knowledge is power. The clearer we are about how this information is managed, the more we fear for our privacy. As a consequence, the next discussion is about who owns that data.

If today we have to execute the Right to be forgotten, that means that we are not the owners of that data. We cannot freely dispose of them. On the contrary, it is the large companies that count on them, and we must turn to them to eliminate them if necessary.

On the other hand, paving the way for users to own their data does not mean that the services we enjoy today will cease to exist. The only thing that means is that, as users, we will have the possibility of keeping our data absolutely private, without being abused by corporations.

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