Personal data is anything which can identify you as an individual. Typical examples include your NRIC, telephone number, home address and email address.
The world is becoming digitalised where the transmission and exchange of data are increasingly rampant. Protecting your personal information is, therefore, of great importance. Unfortunately, personal data protection is a relatively new field of expertise with a limited talent pool. In fact, regulating the collection, use and disclosure of personal data by all private organisations only came into full effect on 2nd July 2014 in Singapore. The enforcement body, Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC), was established on 2nd January 2013.
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The Importance of Protecting Personal Data
Repercussions of having your personal information in the wrong hands can be detrimental. NRIC numbers can be used to access many different key portals, facilitate identity thefts and request for information from many organisations (medical, finance, social aid). Although nothing concrete can be done with your NRIC number, possessing this data makes it easier for the malefactor to commit fraud by having one obstacle cleared out of the way.
In the booming e-commerce industry, credit card fraud has been increasingly common. While it is convenient to save your credit card details on the platform when you register an account or purchase an item, it is also an opportunity for hackers to access this data and make transactions with the details made conveniently available. You should weigh the effects of the possible consequences resulting from the convenience.
Other personal data including your telephone number and email address expose you to marketing and advertising companies. Have you ever wondered why a telemarketer of an Insurance company, property company or even tuition agency knows so much about you when you had never heard of them at all?
Why did your details end up exposed?
Believe it or not, consumers might be the cause of having your details exposed.
Databases containing your personal data are often either traded for in the data market or targets for cyber-attacks. The reason why your data was or will get hacked is a result of people providing it to these databases in the first place.
Seemingly innocuous survey questionnaires, membership applications and lucky draw forms are a few sources where people tend to submit your data unknowing of the consequences. These platforms are one of the best sources for companies to phish for personal data out of you. More often than not, freebies are offered along with a completed questionnaire, and lucky draws give hope of winning the grand prize. People tend to let their guard down when they are vying for a reward. Sending your data to such outlets allows marketing and advertising companies to obtain them and use it for their marketing strategy which targets potential customers by categorising them based on the data they had provided regarding their interests, habits and family background.
Free applications on Google Play and App Store are also platforms where your data may be collected. Applications will always ask for permissions to access certain data on your phones such as your contacts and your social media profile. It may seem essential to grant the access, but did you know that providing and excluding information selectively is still possible? Click on “details” and read the fine prints, there is usually checkboxes where you can untick terms which you do not agree. Fret not. You will still be able to download the application.
Developers of such applications earn their revenue partly from selling data collected by their apps. Yes, there is an industry for the trading of your data. You can buy the information of an individual for a few cents. Since these applications typically achieve thousands of downloads, that’s easily hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in profit.
How to Protect your Data
Be aware of what data you are providing a company. Always question if that information is necessary for the company to provide their service to you. You need not provide all the information requested if the information is not required for the service. For example, is it mandatory for a beauty salon to ask for your NRIC to be able to offer a $100 discounted package to you?
Ask if you are in doubt of their compliance with the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA). The PDPA is created to protect you. Your personal data can never be taken from you if you do not provide it. Be mindful of the terms and conditions of every application you download. Although it is inevitable to be required to provide certain information to facilitate the use of the service or product, you can keep information provided to the minimum if you are aware of the regulations governing the collection of personal data.
If you wish to be free from telemarketing calls and messages, you can register yourself into the D0-not-call (DNC) registry. Visit the PDPC site to register now.
Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to personal data protection. Educate yourself on the requirements of companies in the PDPA. Alert the authorities if you find a company not adhering to the requirements. Visit the PDPC website at https://www.pdpc.gov.sg/individuals/Overview to see more on this topic.
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