Personal Data And How To Use It

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personal data

What is personal data?

Personal data, also known as personal information or personally identifiable information is any information relating to an identifiable person. In other words, any information that is clearly about a particular person. Examples include name, address, email address eg.surname@company.com, driving license, IP address etc.

Going into more detail, GDPR clarifies that this applies whenever an individual can be identified, directly or indirectly, “by reference to an identifier such as a name, an identification number, location data, an online identifier or to one or more factors specific to the physical, physiological, genetic, mental, economic, cultural or social identity of that natural person.”

Why do companies want my personal data?

The main reason is to help better serve the customer, that’s you. Personal data helps them to get a much better understanding of the way their customers behave, define their overall demographics, and identify the ways in which they can improve the overall customer experience. 

For many companies, customer data offers a way to better understand and meet their customers’ demands. By analysing customer behavior, as well as vast troves of reviews and feedback, companies can adjust their digital presence, goods, or services to better suit the current marketplace. This enables them to produce tailored offers based on your interaction, behavior and engagement with them and therefore encourages repeat business. 

Is Personal Data Collection A Good Thing?

For customers, providing personal data can have significant benefits in the form of services and applications that are more tailored to their needs, or that they might otherwise have to pay for. 

Organisations use data to better understand you. This helps them provide great customer service and build trust in the way your data is used. For example, Kippie uses your personal data in an “Insurance Passport”, which is useable between countries. The insurance passport allows you to access their panel of insurers for 20-50% less than what customers currently pay, thus offering them cheaper alternatives.

What About The Risks Of Personal Data

As with everything with good intentions, there are people who could potentially misuse your personal data for their personal gain. Examples include identify theft, discrimination and reputational damage to the people whose data has been breached. Even when you think your personal data is safe, there have been high profile examples where businesses have been hacked and had customer’s personal data accessed. An example of that is when,  in 2014 eBay reported that an attack exposed its entire account list of 145 million users in May 2014, including names, addresses, dates of birth and encrypted passwords. The online auction giant said hackers used the credentials of three corporate employees to access its network and had complete access for 229 days—more than enough time to compromise the user database.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) outlines guidelines that companies must follow regarding data collection and protection. For example, guidelines include not keeping data for longer than needed, ensuring that the data is kept secure, and, above all, responding to Subject Access Requests (SARs.) These factors should help to minimize the risk of loss of personal data and data breaches.