Why Data Privacy Should Be a Core Aspect of Protecting Human Rights

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Click to learn more about author Deepak Gupta.

The U.N. Declaration of Human Rights recognizes privacy as one of the most basic rights that should be afforded to everyone. 

But the inherent openness of the internet and the ability of a person to access information from the other side of the globe mean that Data Governance is a big issue.

A question arises: How vulnerable is your data?

Before answering this question, here’s what you need to know first. All data that people have ever made available on the internet exists in three states: at rest, in transit, and in use. 

  1. At rest: Data at rest is stored in a physical device that is not connected to the internet (e.g., hard drives and USBs). Unless these devices are connected to a laptop, the data cannot be transferred.
  2. In Transit: Data in transit means data is being moved from one place to another. This is usually done through e-mails, downloading or uploading files on the server, or messaging using a messenger, SMS, or social media.
  3. In Use: Data in use means data is being processed, analyzed, or loaded into databases. This can be done by individuals or corporations for any reason, be it marketing, or simply to know their use for general purposes.

There are various crossovers in these states, and even with the most modern encryption methods, data can get lost or stolen. 

No wonder, data security has become the primary concern of big corporations like Facebook, who store data to provide their users with specified ads and experience. While most people believe that data breaches happen due to hackers, the fact is 88% occur due to human error.

However, the downside to this is that once the data is out there, there is very little you can do to get it back.

Worst still is the knowledge that there is almost nothing that you can do to ensure your data isn’t used for malicious purposes. This is one of the major reasons why personal data privacy is now becoming a part of basic human rights.

How Can Data Rights Be Recognized?

As mentioned already, while there are pros and cons to technological development, the storage of data hints at a bigger problem: the breach of privacy. 

Here are a few ways companies can safeguard data as a basic human right. 

  • By adopting an internationally recognized model: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was created and universally accepted by countries all over the world after the end of World War II. All nations, whether a part of the U.N. or not, are required to provide their citizens with these basic rights. These global standards make it easy to rule legal judgment rather than a debate on ethics and moral codes of either party – which can change from one person to another.
  • By providing legal protection: Human rights is an objective model that can be implemented globally. Denying them can be dealt with legally. This ensures any party, whether government, cooperation, or individual, will have to face legal consequences that aren’t subjective. Anyone who doesn’t abide by Data Governance is held legally accountable.
  • By limiting government reach: It is the obligation of the government, regardless of which country users live in, to provide human rights. This stops the government from discriminating and mistreating individuals for their gains. Including data rights ensures that no institution can use user data maliciously. This also ensures that the government cannot spy on their citizens or keep them under surveillance without due cause.
  • By creating social boundaries: Despite how friendly you might be with your co-workers and friends, you draw a line about who and how much information you share with each person. Having access to all information about other people makes it impossible to create boundaries. Social media platforms should be obligated to include data security features to ensure that no personal information is lost.
  • By providing freedom of speech and thought: Recognizing Data Governance as a human right would ensure that no individual can be monitored. This allows the person to provide their thoughts and opinions without being misaligned or being labeled negatively. 
  • By avoiding financial loss: Companies that store data should be especially careful about their Data Governance policies because they can face hefty financial loss without them. 

In 2020, identity fraud scams cost $43 billion for individuals, corporations, and governments. While this number might be less than seen in 2019, it has still affected the lives of millions of individuals. 

Recognizing data privacy as a human right would ensure corporations will instill a new level of data security protocols so that no data is stolen.

How Is the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) Contributing?

CCPR General Comment No. 16: Article 17 (Right to Privacy) recognizes privacy as a human right. It allows every person to protect their privacy, family, home, and correspondence from unlawful attacks. 

The article also includes the following statement:

  • No interference can take place except in cases envisaged by the law. And when that happens, it should be under the provisions, aims, and objectives of the Covenant. 
  • The competent public authorities can only demand an individual’s private data that is governed as authorized interferences with private life.
  • The holding of personal data on any device (computers, data banks, etc), whether by public authorities or private individuals, should be regulated by the law. 

Conclusion 

Even though data security and governance are included in the human rights treaty, the lack of regulation is one reason why user data is still vulnerable. The development of new technology and the fact that there were 4.66 billion active internet users worldwide (as of January 2021) make regulation all the more difficult. 

It is time that national governments acknowledge this growing need for data security and create laws or legislations that govern an individual’s right to data privacy. Proper use of technology requires careful governance and administration, as it is a challenge faced by many people today.

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