Why Should You Care About Your Personal Data?

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From 1 to 10, 1 being easiest.
Man in front of a mirror and in his reflection, he sees data points about himself such as passwords, Social Security Number, social media, birthday.

Your data represents you. It is made up of snippets of information about you–everything from your location to your interests to your finances. Ultimately, this data can be aggregated to create a clear picture of your behaviors and beliefs and used in unexpected ways to inform decisions.

The University of Illinois takes steps to protect the data you have shared and created in the course of your time as a student, faculty member, researcher, or employee.

Technology Services is helping to lead University efforts to develop and define privacy policy. A set of privacy pillars guides the work.

  • Trust – Individuals should be able to trust that the university handles their data with the utmost care and protection. 
  • Transparency – Individuals should be notified and understand how the University collects personal data, and for what processing purpose(s) the data is collected. 
  • Consent – Individuals should be able to freely consent or withdraw consent wherever practical, and especially when consent is used as the legal basis for collecting and processing personal data. 

These guidelines also can help you as you consider your data privacy outside the university. Making informed decisions about your data is a key way you can safeguard your privacy, according to Associate Director of Privacy Phil Reiter. He explained that when you interact with an organization or business you can ask yourself some key questions:

Do they provide clear and understandable information about how your data is collected, processed, and shared? For example, do you know what they will do with your data and why they want it in the first place? Are you able to ask that your data be removed or that they stop collecting it if you change your mind about sharing?

According to Reiter, the European Union takes a human-centered approach in this space. As one example, you may have heard about some of the privacy rights available to residents of other countries, such as the right to be forgotten, where you have the right to request your data be deleted, and the law says the organization keeping the data must comply with your request.

“We’re seeing an emergence of comprehensive privacy law here, but often at the state level. The U.S. also focuses on sectoral law, like the health sector or financial sector, rather than comprehensive privacy law. This can lead to complexity and a patchwork that leaves large gaps or fails to mature overall privacy rights,” Reiter said.

What can you do in the meantime? Reiter suggests that while it may seem cumbersome, your privacy is important enough to take time to know what you are agreeing to.

“So much of our lives is conducted online. It’s natural for us to want to use the most convenient app, website, or AI to make our lives easier. Balancing that convenience by being informed about the personal information the app or site collects about you is important. We must play an active and informed role in the data collected about us in order to make decisions in our own interest,” he suggested.

Where can you learn more?

The University has information about privacy that includes a growing privacy guide to university data that provides information about how your data is collected and used. See it here: Privacy Guide to University Data

Privacy issues are complex and affect everyone. To learn more about the wider privacy landscape, Reiter and members of the privacy team suggest the following organizations: