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The Tech Behind Data Privacy and National Security

Philip Kushmaro, @PhilipKushmaro

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When Edward Snowden leaked America's extensive surveillance practices, it didn't just impact American citizens. It changed the way people all over the world thought about their data privacy and how it impacts national security.

The increased focus on data privacy hasn't only affected governments either. It has shed new light onto the data collection practices of businesses. Many have called into question how businesses should handle data, with national security matters (Apple's refusal to unlock an iPhone is a great example) and data breaches creating big discussions on the subject.
A fine line
People feel just as negatively about the collection of their personal data today as they did in 2013. However, despite the negative associations, people are becoming more willing to let their data be collected if it will protect national security.

Astonishingly, only 20% of people surveyed in 2016 don't support the use of personal data to protect national security. This is a major decrease from the 42% who were opposed to it in 2013.

This information reveals 2 key points businesses and governments must keep in mind:

  1. People are willing to provide their personal data - for the right reasons
  2. Even if someone is willing to open up their personal data, it doesn't mean there won't be a bitter after taste.

Another important point to consider is that the more personal the data, the less comfortable an individual will be with a business or government having access to it. Businesses and governments will need to walk a fine line when it comes to data collection. One that only collects data that's relevant, and only uses the data for the correct reasons.
People's biggest fear
The biggest fear for individuals isn't that the government or business will misuse their data, but rather that they don't have the security measures in place to adequately protect private information.

The majority of people feel that companies and their governments can't keep their data secure. That's a major pain point, that has only been getting worse with the latest attacks and breaches. Just this year alone there have been several major incidents which have given individuals cause for concern:
You may notice that none of these incidents are related to people's privacy. That's because there's been no major media coverage of data breaches in 2016.

In individual's minds, the question looms: "If governments can't stop their power grids from being shut down, and banks can't stop the theft of tens of millions, how are they going to protect my private information!"
Will data ever be truly secure in other's hands?
Many individuals feel like their private data will never truly be secure in the hands of a government or corporation. Most don't even believe they have control over their own data. In a world where merely owning a phone broadcasts so much information about you, it can be tough for a business or a government to reassure individuals.

Technologies like HP ArcSight already exist which will help keep private data secure and there are even data analytics companies like SQream which can aid in accelerating security and forensics analytics by querying larger historical time frames and doing it faster than with traditional security products alone. In fact, many governments and businesses are already putting increased cyber security measures into place so that they may keep their data safe. So while your data may never be 100% safe, there are many steps that can and already are being taken to make it secure.
Parting Thoughts
At the end of the day, the balancing act isn't so much about whether or not to use data for national security. Most people are willing to do that, and agree that it's necessary to protect the countries, cities and even neighborhoods they live in. The balancing act between data privacy and national security is more about ensuring that the data which is being collected is the right data and that it is kept safe.

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