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Safeguarding Digital Identities: Why Data Privacy Should Matter To You (And Your Business) Trust in the use of our personal data on digital platforms is more than a digital issue; it affects our broader trust in institutions and our society collectively.

By Deemah AlYahya

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In 2021, almost half of data privacy breaches involved personal user data. With all of us spending more of our time online, we are all more at risk of having our data used and misused for unintended purposes. Not only do these breaches have an emotional cost for individuals, but also for entrepreneurs and companies- IBM's cost of a data breach report found the average cost of a data breach rose 10% to US$4.24million in 2021. For an enterprise's reputation, the cost is exponentially higher- all breaches impact the trust we collectively hold in the internet and digital platforms.

Safeguarding our digital identities is fundamental to global growth and wellbeing. According to the World Economic Forum, the digital economy will generate 70% of global growth over the next decade, and will create prosperity for millions of people. We have seen the tremendous value and power technology companies create using personal data for themselves, their audiences, and other organizations. With this power comes great responsibility.

Having marked this year's global Data Privacy Day on January 28th, the Digital Cooperation Organization (DCO) is calling on technology companies to work with governments to develop privacy and user terms that protect user data, and ensure that data use aligns with the user's informed consent. These terms must also be consistent with existing data privacy regulations, and developed through consultation and engagement with governments.

Related: Why Startups Should Consider A Cyber Resilience Strategy

The DCO exists to close digital divides, ensuring that everyone gets the chance to prosper in the digital economy. We are a multilateral body a bit like the UN, the World Bank, or the World Health Organization- but for the digital world. In our first year we have brought together member states representing half a billion people and large private sector companies. At the DCO, we have taken a stand on the issue of digital privacy for two reasons.

First, we see the tremendous value in companies and governments working together in the development of privacy and broader digital economy regulations. As our digital world accelerates at an ever-faster pace, we need programmers and policy makers to be working together, rather than standing apart. Otherwise, we will all suffer from disjointed and, ultimately, inefficient rules between companies and countries that will hamper growth and prosperity, and put at risk people's personal identities.

Second, we need to be raising digital privacy protection on the global agenda. Trust in the use of our personal data on digital platforms is more than a digital issue; it affects our broader trust in institutions and our society collectively. That is why our governments are calling out this issue with one voice, stating that we will work together in preserving and protecting the use of our citizens' data.

The DCO will continue to champion the cause of digital privacy by educating consumers, enabling prosperity by sharing best practices, negotiating between governments and the private sector, and shining a spotlight where regulations and terms of service can be improved– including through our social media channels.

Regulations can help to protect against the misuse of individual data, but as individuals, we should all take steps to educate and protect ourselves. Our young people are particularly vulnerable to privacy breaches, since while they are tech savvy, they also tend to be more willing to share personal data. Our elderly, who may be less familiar with digital technologies, are also at risk.

There are several steps we can all take to protect our privacy online, including reviewing privacy settings on applications, creating and refreshing passwords, and taking advantage of additional authentication methods. Although these may seem like trivial steps, they all help in the battle to protect digital privacy. Taking these steps also signals to companies that digital privacy is an important issue that must be protected. For Data Privacy Day, take a moment to think about how you can protect your data in the year ahead.

Related: Five Ways To Protect Your Company Against Cyber Attacks

Deemah AlYahya

Secretary-General, Digital Cooperation Organization

Deemah AlYahya is the Secretary-General of the Digital Cooperation Organization, a multilateral organization established to create digital prosperity for all.

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