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Data Privacy Day 2023

Privacy expert and industry thought-leader, Astrid Gobardhan, of the visa services giant VFS Global – an organisation that processes millions of personal visa applications each year – sees this annual event (Data Privacy Day) as a fundamental fixture of the new digital world, and one that should be embraced by businesses and consumers alike.

Commenting on Data Privacy Day and its significance, VFS Global’s Data Protection Officer, Astrid Gobardhan, said:

“Recent research suggests that over 2.5 quintillion bytes of storable information is developed every day — with an average digital user producing some 1.7MB of data each second.

“In many cases, this data is highly sensitive and provides a snapshot into our day-to-day lives. This makes it a prime commodity for organisations, which can use it for targeted advertising and the mapping of consumer behaviour, as well as nefarious sources, who make seek to appropriate it for their illegal ends.

“It is therefore essential that such data is protected, and guarded from potential misuse, in the course of its storage and use.

“At VFS Global, a company that handles millions of visa applications each year, we believe employing the highest possible standard of data protection is not just the right thing to do – it’s imperative to our business model. We are trusted with highly sensitive information, including fingerprints and other biometric data, which could cause significant harm to the individual if it fell into the wrong hands. So, ensuring we have the most robust practices, and continued confidence of our customers as “safe custodians” of their data, is crucial.

“Data Privacy Day therefore serves as an annual reminder – for both businesses and consumers alike – to re-evaluate their relationship with data. For the former, it provides an opportunity to reflect on operational practices, and to revise processes, upwards, in line with new legislation. While, for the latter, it acts as a prompt to check the scale and level of personal information they are sharing with the world today”.

“At a personal level, I would encourage readers to look, in particular, at the privacy policies of applications that they use on their laptops and phones, to ensure that the have robust and adopt zero-knowledge frameworks, so that companies cannot access or decrypt any data that is shared. They should also try to do periodic check-ins across the ‘permission manager’ of their device, so that they are not sharing more information than is required for the functionality of an application.”