Can you honestly say, hand on heart, you know who has access to your personal data? Just how many people know what your email address is or when your birthday is? And, more importantly, who knows where you live or what your bank card details are?
People are sharing their data with businesses online all the time, it's what we all do in today's digital era. Whether we're sharing our email address in return for receiving newsletters from our favourite fashion store or music venue or creating an online account so that we can leave a review, our data is everywhere.
But there's a problem. Most people don't know where their personal data is going or where it's being stored, yet many of us don't even give it a second thought. That is, until we find out that a data breach has meant our details are now in the hands of the wrong people.
However, it's all about to change.
While there is a lot of discussion going on about the impact of the GDPR on businesses, don't forget that these new rules are designed to protect the public. On May 25, 2018, the much talked about, and hugely anticipated, General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will come into force, which will change how organisations collect, store and process any details they may have about you - on a global scale. But while many businesses have been frantically preparing for the arrival of GPDR, many are still in the dark when it comes to their personal data. Now's the time to get to grips with safeguarding your personal data once and for all. Here are some of the ways you can go about doing it:
1. Get to know where your data is
As obvious as it sounds, where exactly is your data? If you think back over the years to the amount of times you've shared your details, whether that's online or by completing a quick questionnaire or short form, the places where your information is stored is vast.
Do a quick audit - are you happy with who may have your details on file and what they're using them for? If not, then you have rights.
2. Understand your rights
No matter where your personal data is stored, you have a right to know what information companies hold about you and how they're using it. You can request these details by asking for a 'subject access request.'
Once the GDPR is in place, you should start to see a difference in the way organisations communicate with you about using your data. You'll have to opt-in rather than opt-out of communications and you cannot be forced to give consent for further use of your data when you sign up to a service. What's more, organisations will no longer be able to assume that silence means you've given them permission to use your details.
The GDPR will also widen the definition of 'personal data', bringing new kinds of personal data under regulation, such as genetic, health, cultural, economic and social information.
3. Recognise the value of your data
It goes without saying, but your data is valuable, even more so in this day and age where the risk of data breaches and cyberattacks is higher than ever before.
Not only is it important you know where your data is and how it's being handled for your own peace of mind, it'll also help reduce the likelihood of it falling into the wrong hands and being misused. Being vigilant online, whether you're using your work computer, home laptop, mobile or tablet device, should be second nature for us and, contrary to popular belief, isn't overly complex to do. Simple steps, such as regularly changing your passwords and installing anti-virus software on all of your devices, not just some of them, can significantly help protect your data.
4. Look after your important data after it's been sent
We live in an increasingly data-driven world where, like it or not, the vast majority of transactions are completed online these days. While this is the norm, many people are still sharing their data (even their most sensitive of details) and then thinking nothing of it.
Regardless of how hectic your life might be, get into the practice of keeping tabs on where your most important data's been sent and whether or not it needs to be reviewed or updated as your details change over the years.
5. Remember - the GDPR is your ally!
While there's been a lot of discussion about the impact of the GDPR on businesses, don't forget these new rules aren't just aimed at organisations, they're aimed at the public too, regardless of how many or few companies you may have shared your details with.
The GDPR will impact both businesses and ordinary people, giving businesses greater responsibility of how they use personal data, and people greater control over the information they give up, what they agree to and what's kept private or public.
The GDPR is coming and with it comes a whole new world of opportunity for you to take back control over your personal data and protect what matters to you most - once and for all.
-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.