You have a right to digital privacy, and you need to know what your rights entail in order to protect yourself, your data, and your devices from unwanted or illegal practices. In this Life in Tech article, we’ll provide a list of valuable links, tools, and general information to help you understand and protect your digital privacy rights.
Know Your Rights
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) provides a wealth of background knowledge and coverage of legal cases, as well as useful guidelines and tools to help you navigate this far-reaching subject. The EFF website covers a wide array of privacy-related topics, including:
- Do Not Track
- Data retention
- International privacy standards
- Face surveillance
- Travel screening and border searches
- Medical and locational privacy
The EFF also outlines your rights in regard to the search or seizure of your electronic devices “to help you understand your rights if officers try to search the data stored on your computer or portable electronic device, or seize it for further examination somewhere else.” As the EFF states,
The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects you from unreasonable government searches and seizures, and this protection extends to your computer and portable devices.
Border Searches and Protests
The following printable guides from the EFF are designed specifically to help you understand your personal rights during international travel and border crossings:
- Digital Privacy at the U.S. Border
- Border Search Pocket Guide (also available in Spanish)
The EFF additionally provides tips and tools to help you:
- Protect yourself from online surveillance
- Protect your devices and digital assets before, during, and after a protest
Your digital rights differ depending on where you live. The European Union (EU), for example, has strict laws pertaining to the collection and use of personal data, as outlined in the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
According to a comprehensive overview by Matt Burgess in Wired, the “GDPR can be considered as the world's strongest set of data protection rules, which enhance how people can access information about them and places limits on what organizations can do with personal data.”
Personal data handling is the key to understanding and complying with the GDPR. As Burgess states, it is defined as “information that allows a living person to be directly, or indirectly, identified from data that's available. This can be something obvious, such as a person's name, location data, or a clear online username, or it can be something that may be less instantly apparent: IP addresses and cookie identifiers can be considered as personal data.”
Rights for Individuals
Although the GDPR is often talked about in terms of the burdens or responsibilities it places on companies, the legislation was designed to protect individuals. This article in TechCrunch notes the European Commission’s theory is that “consumer trust is essential to fostering growth in the digital economy. And it thinks trust can be won by giving users of digital services more information and greater control over how their data is used.”
Thus, the GDPR outlines eight specific rights. Again, Burgess writes:
The full GDPR rights for individuals are: the right to be informed, the right of access, the right to rectification, the right to erasure, the right to restrict processing, the right to data portability, the right to object and also rights around automated decision making and profiling.
The GDPR applies to all organizations that operate within the EU, along with those that offer goods or services to EU customers or businesses, which means that many companies throughout the world are subject to its rules, as well as penalties for noncompliance. This article explains special GDPR considerations and obligations for open source projects and the use of open source code.
The resources and guidelines mentioned above can help you understand your digital rights. However, other considerations also affect your privacy and security online, such as which web browser, operating system, and software tools you use.
These articles can help clarify your choices for additional online protection: