Consumer privacy rights govern the way organizations handle sensitive information, including financial and health records. You’ve probably noticed that you sign privacy documents every time you’re treated in a medical office. When you sign such documents, you affirm that you understand your rights to privacy. Many times, individuals sign such documents without reading them or fully understanding what responsibility companies have regarding their personal privacy. Here are a few things you should know about the legalities behind consumer privacy rights.
Not All Online Information is Covered
There are consumer privacy laws that protect information you share with certain entities. But, there is not a sweeping law that protects all information you share via the Internet. While companies must comply with credit card standards when collecting payments online, for example, there’s no equal assurance that personal information shared via social networks will be guarded. Individuals must use common sense to protect themselves and their personal information online.
Privacy Rights Entitles You to an Explanation
The law does say you have a right to understand how information collected about you is used. Even online, you’ll find a privacy notice on most websites that provides some explanation about what information is collected about users and what is done with that information. In more regulated industries, such as healthcare, individuals must sign documents indicating they received an explanation. If you don’t know what information is being collected, ask questions, including:
What information is collected?
What information is kept?
What information is shared with third parties?
What is the information used for?
How do you store my personal and private information ?
Limitations on Information Collection
Many people don’t realize that companies are required to limit the collection of identifying information to those pieces of data that are required for the job at hand. Many forms ask for a social security number, for example. Yet there is no reason to provide that sensitive and uniquely identifying number. When asked for personal information, make sure you know the reason for supplying it. That way you avoid giving out your social security number when it isn’t absolutely required.
Understanding your privacy rights lets you reduce the amount of information you share with others. It also keeps you informed about how others are using your information, reducing the chance that your identity will be put at risk.