Information Privacy and Personal Data Collection

Introduction

In today’s informational world, the issue of information privacy is a growing concern. The fact that nowadays, most information is kept in electronic form leads to an increased risk of information leak, which might cause significant harm to the involved parties.

Topic

The topic of this paper is information privacy. If information privacy is maintained, it means that the relationship between data collection, retention, and sharing preserves the rights of persons or parties that the information is about.

Background

The issues of information privacy arise in many spheres of contemporary life. Individuals are often asked or required to submit their personal data to various organizations, health care institutions, online services such as social networks, businesses, law-enforcing agencies, etc. Many of these are often willing to share that information with their partner organizations or businesses. People and organizations are often at risk of having their private data transferred to third persons or parties and utilized by them for their own benefits, often at the cost of the individual or party whose data was used.

Problem

As it is possible to see, the issue of keeping personal information private arises. Individuals are afraid that this data might be used against them, and there is a number of ways this could happen. For instance, the leak of information to financial institutions and businesses might lead to people being denied a loan or insurance, fired from their work, or turned away from a prospective job. The possibilities of public embarrassment or discrimination also pose a problem. Besides, the data can be used directly to harm a person or an organization; such crimes as fraud or identity theft can lead to rather serious consequences (Koontz, 2015).

Research questions

What are the main sources from which the personal data can be collected in a way that breaches information privacy, and what are the ways to avoid this?

Methods

This paper is general qualitative research, based on a literature review. To collect the data, an online search was performed in order to find materials available on online electronic databases such as “ProQuest” and “Science Direct.” As a result, a number of articles related to the topic of information privacy were found. These articles were carefully studied, analyzed, and compared.

Gathered Data and its Analysis

Information privacy “is of growing concern to multiple stakeholders including business leaders, privacy activists, scholars, and individual consumers”; it is “one of the largest concerns for the consumers” (Smith, Dinev, & Xu, 2011, p. 990). There are a number of ways in which private information might be leaked and then misused. The data can be taken from electronic medical records, social networks, and other online sources, government records, records collected by businesses, etc.

Medical records

It is clear that hospitals and other medical institutions gather data about their patients and store it for medical use. Needless to say, should there be a leak, such information can be used against the current and former patients. Therefore, it is an important responsibility of healthcare institutions’ records managers to keep their records safe (Jones, 2014, p. 23). Besides, patients have a number of rights concerning their medical records. For instance, they can demand a copy of their medical record; have the right to know how the information is used and with whom it is shared; can request that the information holder does not share the information with third parties (though the holder is allowed to refuse because of healthcare considerations); can request that the information is not shared with insurance companies (the holder is obliged to comply) (Koontz, 2015).

Social media and online privacy

Social networks and online services (such as banking services) often require their users to provide some personal data, and, according to Smith et al. (2011), the users often submit this data, even though they usually state that they do not intend to do so (p. 1000). Social media, though, often share the information about their users with their business partners and other companies that wish to buy that information; clearly, the users are not informed about it explicitly (Camenisch, 2012). The accounts can also be hacked. Even though the data is often dispersed among various holders, parties that wish to gather information can do so by looking for overlapping pieces of data and gathering the missing parts, thus being able to create a rather detailed record (Camenisch, 2012, p. 3838). Therefore, users should not disclose any important information about themselves, and if they do, they ought to use strong passwords (ones that combine a few different unrelated numbers, names, or events; ideally – passwords that do not make sense at all), and delete the information as soon as it stops being necessary. It is also important to have a cautious attitude towards websites, especially social networks.1

Government records

The government authorities collect, store, utilize, and spread information about their citizens in order to be able to successfully perform their functions (Li, 2011). This might cause a conflict with citizens’ privacy rights and concerns. It is important that government organizations make sure that the information is accurately collected and properly stored and that no unauthorized third parties are able to gain access to this data in order to comply with the privacy rights of the citizens (Carter & McBride, 2010).

Data records of businesses

Information privacy concerns are of major importance to enterprises, for they fear that their rivals might get access to internal data and use it to gain an unfair advantage in business. Information breaches are expensive for companies (Gable, 2014). Besides, not only rivals but also other parties might hack organizations’ records, uncovering important data about the enterprises’ employees and clients. There exist a number of instructions and principles for companies that they need to follow to keep their records safe2 And these instructions should be followed.

Discussion

As it is possible to see, there are many potential sources of information leakage. There exist a set of laws and regulations aimed at protecting this data, as well as a number of methods to ensure its safety; nonetheless, breaches occur in any case. Therefore, it is clear that such breaches bring substantial profit to those who perform them. This fact always leaves each person with a hard choice whether to provide their personal information to any other parties. In any case, it is clear that data safety regulations must be strictly complied with, for the consequences of an information leak might be severe.

Conclusion

To conclude, it should be noted that there are many sources from which personal data can be collected; these include medical and government records, records of businesses, and social media and online services. It is crucial that organizations comply with information safety recommendations, whereas individuals need to be careful while exposing their personal information and keep an eye on how it is used. It is also important to study the ways in which information privacy can be maintained in more detail and implement those ways in both personal and organizational activities.

References

Camenisch, J. (2012). Information privacy?! Computer Networks, 56(18), 3834-3848. Web.

Carter, L., & McBride, A. (2010). Information privacy concerns and e-government: A research agenda. Transforming Government: People, Process and Policy, 4(1), 10-13. Web.

Gable, J. (2014). Principles for protecting information privacy. Information Management, 48(5), 38-40, 42, 47. Web.

Jones, V. A. (2014). Protecting information privacy per U.S. federal law. Information Management, 48(2), 18-20, 22-23, 47. Web.

Koontz, L. (2015). Health information privacy in a changing landscape. Generations, 39(1), 97-104. Web.

Li, H. (2011). The conflict and balance between government’s information right and citizen’s privacy right. Journal of Politics and Law, 4(2), 104-107. Web.

Smith, H. J., Dinev, T., & Xu, H. (2011). Information privacy research: An interdisciplinary review. MIS Quarterly, 35(4), 989-1015, A1-A27.

Footnotes

  1. Indeed, social networks seem to be created for socializing, but in truth, they are constantly being used as a source of information by various third parties.
  2. these instructions often include recommendations on data collection, storage, utilization, retention, and disposal, as well as regulations on its disclosure, monitoring, and security (Gable, 2014).