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What Small Business Owners and Virtual Assistants Should Know About Personal Data

spyingTypically, every individual is protective of their privacy. We don’t want others to know about some aspects of our lives that we are not willing to share. Especially when you own a small business, there are some things like your transactions, that you don’t want others to know – particularly your competition.

However, you also realize that a good part of your business’s success depends on your online presence. Having an online presence is also like giving up some of your privacy because what you do is to bring your business as close to the people as possible. Your activities around the web in your effort to build your business online and bring it closer to a more diverse potential clientele lead you to unwittingly let other people access pertinent information about you or your business. These information are what we call your personal data.

What is personal data?

Personal data, as defined in the Data Protection Act, is “data relating to a living individual who is or can be identified either from the data or from the data in conjunction with other information that is in, or is likely to come into, the possession of the data controller.”

In other words, it is the information about you that make you identifiable and your pattern of activities predictable online.

How do you unknowingly utilize personal data?

As a business owner, whether you assign it to your virtual assistant or you do it yourself, you have an email address set up for your business. You disclose some personal data, like your name, birth date, phone number, and location to avail of that particular online service. Now, using that email address, you further your marketing plan by creating a website, and of course social media accounts.

You believe them to be free, so you think your freedom is boundless. It is not, and online services are hardly free. If you bother to read the fine print before accepting the TOS or terms of service, you would have seen that you actually let them access your personal data within that account in discretion or monitor your movement in the web. This is something you and your virtual assistant(s) should be aware of. This way you can work to keep the disclosure of a sensitive information at the barest minimum.

The controversies surrounding personal data

Do you still remember Edward Snowden and all those hubbub that surrounded him last year? He was the whistleblower on the National Security Agency (NSA) project called PRISM, an electronic data mining program. He leaked several other sensitive documents of the agency that showed different global surveillance programs that encroached on the privacy of practically anyone the agency and those behind them so desired. Access to data like device-location records and private webcam images can be made accessible to them through such programs, even monitoring social media networks in real-time. Of course, this is not to say that Edward Snowden is a hero for telling the world that we are all being watched. We can only, after all, speculate what lengths he must have gone through to acquire those documents not readily available within his access through his job. His methods might have bordered on the illegal.

After that, you must have heard or read a lot of news on the web lately about the controversies relating to personal data and privacy. People became aware of the fragility of their own privacy in the web. It was then that questions regarding personal data became rampant. And people were made to realize the delicate nature of the information they share in the virtual world.

What else do you need to know about your personal data

1. Personal data is a currency. Own a smartphone? Then, you must be into free apps available in the web. From your social media apps, to games, to utilities, and whatever else you might need, you can either buy them or avail of them for free. But are they?

No, they are not. When you try to download an app, for example, you first need to give the publisher of that app permission to view your information like your call logs or emails – these are your personal data. In short, they want a peek into your smartphone’s gold mine of personal data. That is the price you have to pay – your privacy.

Why? They either need it for their own research or to sell them to third party companies like advertisers who might need these kinds of data for their own study.

2. Your personal data is like a gold mine. Today, data is considered as the new oil or what one should view as prime commodity. Many advert companies will pay just to have access to people’s personal data. They need them as source materials, this is the best way to determine any person’s preferences or predict their behaviour online. Knowing what kinds of sites do we frequent or topics we favor, help them to tailor fit the ads that come our way to these specification, among other things.


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Angela is a virtual assistant specializing in content writing, social media marketing, and administrative assistance. Follow her on Google+.
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