Valuing Personal Data

If you’re anything like me you’ve probably envisaged your first post-lockdown holiday. That moment of excitement as you start the journey to the airport knowing that soon enough, you’ll be in a foreign country, taking in the sights and enjoying some of the local cuisine. We enjoy the last-minute dash to duty free, treating yourself to some last-minute luxuries which if anyone asks are absolutely essential items. Personally, for me, nothing brings a smile to my face more than when I take my seat on the plane and hear that all important ‘This is your captain speaking’ announcement. Amongst all the positive feels of a trip away there is one emotion that we would all rather avoid, the dreaded where did I put my passport moment- Is it sitting in a tray in security? Or perhaps its’ been left on the restaurant table?

But why does the thought of losing our passport fill us with so much dread?  Is it because we wouldn’t want our personal information getting into the hands of strangers or, is it the fear of not being able to jet off on our trip?

Following a recent survey that we conducted it was clear that people would be most concerned if their personal information was lost or shared without their permission if it was in a tangible form. We look after our passports, driving licenses and bank cards as second nature but would you go to the same lengths to protect your genetic information or medical history? Potentially, we all have details we wouldn’t want shared with the world, but what about if you’ve got nothing to show, would you be as cautious?

Your personal information belongs to you and it’s your choice with whom and the reasons why you share it. Whether that be your date of birth, nationality or even your shoe size. These details are essentially puzzle pieces that alone may not mean much to a total stranger but when put together they reveal the full picture of who we are.

Following the events of the past year more of our lives have been lived out online than ever before, which given the social distancing orders has been a life saver, literally. However, this has also meant that more personal information is being stored virtually, filed away on a computer database rather than on paper where we can see it, touch it, even smell it if you really wanted to!

Just because our information is not an object that we can see does not make it any less valuable. In fact, from an organisations perspective it may be even more so. If you found yourself isolating at one time or another your once weekly trip to the supermarket may have become an online experience. Whereas once the only information a retailer held about you would be your card number, which alone isn’t enough to identify you. Nowadays if shopping online, they may need to know your name, delivery address and email just to fulfil your order. Whilst they cannot use this information for reasons not previously agreed to, with just a click of a button they could have a new marketing contact to showcase their upcoming products and offers.

Personal information has become a currency of its own and as individuals we have the right to choose where and with whom we spend it with. We’re taught to be careful with money from a young age, learn how budget and only share it with those that we trust. Money doesn’t lose value when you see it as figures on a computer screen so why would your personal information?

Our aim at the Jersey Office of the Information Commissioner is ensure that each and every islander has the right to privacy. Your personal information is important and deserves to be taken care of.

Check out our Privacy Toolkit, designed to be a go-to-guide for understanding YOUR information rights.