Personal identifiable information (PII) is associated with freedom, dignity and integrity as an individual. PII is a user’s property and should be protected as such — dates of birth, race and medical history are sensitive data points.

Because of this, the information age has turned data privacy into one of the most important human rights issues at this point in time. It impacts anyone who shares their information with corporate and government entities. So, data privacy impacts everyone.

The evolution of data privacy

Privacy wasn't always mainstream until the internet changed how businesses collect user information. The data privacy landscape was like the Wild West in the early days of the internet.

Digitalization created a stream of user data that companies could tap into at will for their benefit without paying the price or assuming any responsibility. Rarely did users know what information was collected or how it would be stored and used.

But that eventually changed. People found that companies were collecting and monetizing their personal data without their permission. Users became savvier about how user data was tracked online and for what purpose. They demanded to exercise their right to consent to the collection, storage, usage and sales of their data.

Governments stepped in and passed various data privacy laws to protect data privacy. The European Union's General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR) was enforced in 2018, and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) went into effect in 2020.

Even still, data breaches have become a major concern, and 81% of American internet users feel they don't have control over the PII that companies collect.

Three components of modern data privacy

Modern-day data privacy isn't about putting personal information in a lockbox.  It's about striking a balance between sharing PII and providing a more personalized user experience with the use of personal information.

To navigate this complex landscape, it is important to consider three main elements:

1. A privacy-first, user-centric approach

Companies must take a privacy-first, user-centric approach to data management. 

Businesses should adhere to robust security measures and adopt transparent data management practices. They should follow the general principles of transparency, legitimate purpose, proportionality and data quality when collecting, processing and storing personal data.

2. Trust

Safeguarding information is one thing, but not sharing or selling it with a third party is another. That's why few people trust Google and Facebook with their data because these platforms make money from leveraging users' personal information to sell ads.

With 87% of users more willing to buy from companies that handle personal data properly, respecting user data privacy isn't just a matter of human rights — it's imperative for building trust and driving sales.

3. Consent management

The last piece of the puzzle is managing consent, which involves getting permission to collect and store information and providing consumers the ability to revoke that consent at any time in the future, such as GDPR's right to be forgotten. Security leaders must have the ability to communicate the type of data they extract from consumers and locate and delete it upon request. 

The future of data privacy

The age of data privacy is here. Businesses must address the increasingly private and decentralized nature of the internet. Prioritizing data privacy will be the key to delivering more value to users while earning their trust to build long-term relationships.

By using a privacy-first data platform, organizations are able to securely store and manage user PII while still leveraging information that leads to valuable insights enabling personalization. Security leaders can determine a user’s preferred contact preferences, how often they visit a website and more. A data vault can even control privileged access to sensitive user data by role and ensure users only have access to the data they absolutely need, without sharing sensitive customer information.