Crime, data trafficking, hackers : this is why you should protect your data

Data protection is about the right to self-determination. You give that up quickly when you share your data carelessly with companies.

Swiss have less trust in international Internet corporations

Swiss have less trust in international Internet companies.

This includes Facebook, Google and Co

These include Facebook, Google and Co.

For this, 35.1 percent use their own password for different services

For this, 35.1 percent use their own password for different services.

Facebook wants the cell phone number, Google constantly asks for a credit card and Migros collects information about shopping behavior: The eternal greed for data is becoming too much for Swiss consumers, as a study by the price comparison platform Comparis shows. This has mainly to do with the fact that they feel more threatened by Internet companies like Facebook and Google, she says.

"Companies can actually do anything with user data," says data protection expert Ursula Sury from the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts to 20 Minuten. So the concerns are justified, according to the expert. The main issue here is the right to self-determination: "Information belongs to a person just as much as a hair or an arm," says Sury. It has been accepted for years that a person has the right to determine what happens to his or her physical body. That the same principle should apply to data is still too little understood.

Here are five reasons why people shouldn’t share their data:

Criminal activities

Data can be used for illegal purposes. The classic example: If account or credit card numbers fall into the wrong hands, dubious payments suddenly appear on the statement at the end of the month – who booked a flight and thus emptied the account?? "On the darknet, you can buy entire collections of stolen account numbers," says Sury.

Misprofiling

Mostly, data is collected to create digital profiles of us – for advertising purposes, for example. But it doesn’t work as well as one would hope. Just because you watched a movie about a certain topic on Netflix, for example, the algorithm then thinks you are interested in that topic. In doing so, Netflix only takes into account that one has watched the movie, but not the reasons for the choice. This rather innocuous but typical case shows that digital profiling is not necessarily the truth. According to Sury, this can have major negative consequences: "Someone might not get a job or a position just because there is an error in their digital profile."

Data trading

Some companies collect data to sell to third parties. For the user, however, it is not comprehensible what such a third party intends to do with the information. In this way, it completely loses control over the data. For example, if you enter your cell phone number in a contest, which is then resold, you suddenly receive advertising calls, even though you never consented to this use of data.

Hacker attack

Even if the company has no intention of misusing data, there is still a risk that it could fall into the wrong hands. What if a company does not protect its data well enough and is attacked by hackers?? Then, despite all the company’s promises, the information may end up on the darknet after all. Depending on the company, the concerns in this regard are great, says Sury.

Outsourcing

"Many companies don’t even process the data on their own end," Sury said. Instead, they pass it on to an external service provider. And even these providers would often call in a third company again. This means that it is no longer enough for users to trust the company requesting the data. And especially in the case of sensitive data, such as in the healthcare sector, the question arises as to whether it might even end up abroad, where different and sometimes looser security regulations would apply than in Switzerland.

Crime, data trafficking, hackers : this is why you should protect your data

Ursula Sury is Professor of Computer Science at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts (HSLU). It also directs advanced training there in areas such as IT, cyber security and Big Data. (Image: HSLU)

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