Our personal data: Is it safe anymore? | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, December 10, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 11:57 PM, December 09, 2019

Our personal data: Is it safe anymore?

The theme of 2019’s World Human Rights Day is ‘Youth Standing up for Human Rights’. In the spirit of this theme, to make people aware of fundamental human rights and to provide them with a platform to come forward with their opinions, suggestions, views, and of course criticisms, Law & Our Rights organised a legal write-up competition. The responses we got were overwhelming and among our participants, there were students, professionals, rights activists and even rights conscious ordinary citizens from different sectors. On today’s issue, we hence publish the best three write-ups.

Doesn’t it happen too often that we are talking about buying a product via messaging apps and the next thing we know an advertisement of the same product pops up in our social media feed? It somewhat feels like someone is keeping track of our conversations but in reality, all forms of our data existing online, for example (but not limited to) our public posts, search histories, private conversations are being accumulated as big data.

Big data is a large volume of structured or unstructured data processed through Artificial Intelligence to acquire useful analysis. These data are used for several purposes - for example, customisation of the advertisements to cater to the requirement of an individual, based on the analysis of Artificial Intelligence. This makes personal data of every individual valuable. The situation of ‘Cambridge Analytica’ is worth mentioning in this regard. In that case, the Republican election campaign was predominantly based on the analysis of the Big Data of voters through an Artificial Intelligence software, which at the end brought an exceptional outcome. This is why our data is no less than currency to various corporations, businesses and even individuals. However, the real question is, to what extent do these people have the right to accumulate and use our personal data and to what extent do we have the right to protect them?

Evidently, every individual has the right to protect their personal data and their right to privacy as it is considered as one of the fundamental human rights. Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights speak of protecting the right to privacy by stating that no individual shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his/her privacy. Moreover, article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights and article 7 of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights recognise the right to privacy. Furthermore, European Union adopted General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a legal framework dedicated to protect individual personal data, which became fully applicable from May 2018 across the countries under European Union. Therefore, as a fundamental human right, no one has the jurisdiction to accumulate any personal data without proper authorisation.

Bangladesh, although is new to the regime of data protection but the right to privacy has been enshrined in our Constitution as a fundamental right under article 43 where it is clearly stated that, every person has the right to the privacy of his correspondence and other means of communication. Moreover, section 26 of the Digital Security Act, 2018 deems the accumulation or using of ‘Identity Information’ without authorisation as a punishable offence where the definition of ‘Identity Information’ is provided in very minuscule manner.

Despite having such laws, our personal data are being used in various ways which we are not even aware of. This happens partly because of our negligence and partly because our data protection laws are not as detailed as the GDPR. Whenever we access a website or an app, we do not always read the terms and conditions or even its privacy policy. Accepting such terms and conditions or privacy policy results in authorisation given by the user to the app developers. However, most of the times the apps do not clarify the utilisation of our data, making our consent devalued.

The websites using cookies never put up warnings regarding the accumulation of our data every time we log in. We are so dependent on applications like Google, facebook, Instagram etc. that even if we are aware of the accumulation or use of our data, we rarely seem to care. The only way out is an extensive guideline for accumulation, processing and use of our data. Like GDPR, if we also emulate a similar legal framework, our fundamental human right to privacy may as well be protected in the upcoming future.

The writer is a student of Law, BRAC University.


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