What to be aware of When providing information to online services…

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What to be aware of when providing information to online services

You may think that the personal data you provide will not be used for anything beyond the process or transaction you are participating in at that particular moment in time. However, this is not always the case. Personal data provided to online services is often used for other purposes. These should be set out in the organisations’ online privacy or data policy. Organisations often describe the immediate purpose or benefit to you at the time you make use of certain features, but also describe other purposes and other processing of your data in their policy documents. For example, you may see ‘pop-up’ notices or ‘help balloons’ describing the feature you are using that involves processing your personal data, and it may include a link to ‘learn more’ or to a section of the organisation’s Privacy Policy that describes potential other related uses of your data.

Often, the personal data you hand over is used to enrich a profile that is created about you, your activities, and your interests. This is then used to tailor and target content that is displayed to you on the website or app, or shared among third party advertising platforms in order to decide what advertisements you are most likely to interact with. These ads may appear on the site or app you are using, or later when you visit a different site or app. Organisations are required by the GDPR to be transparent with you about how your data will be used in a ’clear and plain’ manner and must provide you information about how you can exercise your GDPR rights. What is the risk to you online? Some organisations may not be fully transparent about the personal data they process, how and why they process that personal data, or how their users can exercise their data protection rights. An example of this could be that a website’s privacy policy may say something like “We use your personal data to improve our service”, with no further information to supplement this statement. Such vague descriptions are generally not sufficiently transparent, in that they may not enable you to understand what the controller actually does with your personal data. It is also possible that service providers fail to disclose all of the kinds of processing they undertake in relation to the personal data you provide; don’t provide enough detail about secondary purposes like ‘research and development’; or fail to adequately describe how and when they share personal data with other ‘partners’.

Steps you can take to protect your personal data

You can take steps to try to be informed and to determine that a data controller lives up to their duty to be clear and plain with you. When signing up to an online service where you are providing personal data, or shortly after you sign-up, we recommend that you take the time to read the privacy policy and understand how your data is used by that service. If there is anything that you are uncomfortable with, consider whether you want to use that service or not, or if there are particular features that you may not wish to use because you are not satisfied you understand what processing is going on. As a general rule of thumb, you should not provide personal data to an online service without knowing how the data will be used. As mentioned above, it is the responsibility of organisations to ensure they provide you with complete, easily accessible and understandable explanations of what they will do with your data. If you want to be cautious, only provide the minimum amount of personal data necessary to use the service you wish to use. When you sign up to an app you should also try to understand how the data it will collect from you will be processed after you install it. When you use features in an app or service that ask for your personal data, look for and read any pop-up notices or extra information and ‘learn more’ links. If you are not happy, you may still want to use the service or the feature in question, but you can also follow up with the organisation and ask them questions to explain better what is happening with your data.

Source: dataprotection.ie

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