Your home is your castle. So, you might want to keep the information about your home
address confidential, especially since it is personal data.
On a daily basis, various public and private organisations collect addresses in order to provide services. In some cases, it is mandatory to indicate an address, for example, while obtaining a residence permit or other types of ID documents. However, sometimes disclosing these data is optional and organisations collect this information based on our consent.
When disclosing your address, you have the right to receive answers to questions such as: Who is the data controller? For what purposes will the address be used? Will the address be shared with other companies or individuals? Answers to these questions will help you make an informed decision.
Payments, cash withdrawals, money transfers – we perform these transactions almost every day and they collectively comprise our bank statement.
Bank statements contain our transaction history over a given period of time and reflect the purpose, location and the date of each transaction. They also incorporate information that identifies the account holder. Bank statements reveal important information about our private lives, shopping habits, sources of income and our financial situations. For this reason, the document is accessible only to the account holder and banks are required to guarantee its confidentiality. However, banks may have to disclose this information to relevant authorities in exceptional cases such as when investigating money laundering, fraud or other financial crimes.
Communication, especially electronic communication, is an essential part of our everyday lives. Any information exchanged through e-mail, telephone, instant messaging applications, social networks and other means of communication is personal data. Not only the contents of communication need to be sufficiently protected, but other personal information as well, for example, the identity of its participants, online identifiers (an IP address, cookies, etc.) and metadata (time and duration of communication, etc.).
While using different communication tools, it is advisable to look into the privacy policies of messaging applications and social networks which should provide information on what data is collected and stored, by whom, who has access to it and how the data are protected. This might also give you an idea about the actual confidentiality of private chats offered by certain instant messaging applications.
A drug test is an evaluation of a biological sample (blood, urine, hair, etc.) through various means to determine whether or not an individual has used certain drugs. A person might be tested for drugs at a pre-employment stage, as part of work-related screening, professional athletic testing or as part of various types of investigations, among others.
Since drug test results may contain sensitive information about a person, their disclosure could seriously affect one’s career or public image; therefore, access to the results should be strictly limited.
It is hard to imagine a day that passes without sending or receiving an e-mail.
Our e-mail address has become a key part of our digital identity since we use it to register on social networks, various websites or online stores and receive and subscribe to a wide range of services. It is widely used for formal and business communication as well.
E-mail addresses frequently become the target of hackers and identity thieves. Here are some suggestions to prevent these risks: use strong passwords for e-mail accounts, do not use the same passwords for different websites and your e-mail, do not click on links from unknown sources, avoid responding to “spam” messages and, of course, do not disclose your password to anyone.
Many companies try to collect e-mail addresses for marketing purposes or to share them with others. For this reason, you should also carefully check the privacy policies of the websites you visit to see how they might use your e-mail address.
Nowadays, fingerprints are commonly used to unlock smartphones, enter premises and high-security vaults; they are also taken for border control and crime investigation purposes.
The fingerprint is a type of biometric personal data that distinguishes a person from others through unique physical traits. There is practically no chance that the fingerprints of two people can match; so, it can be used for directly identifying a particular person. Because of this, fingerprints (as well as other biometric data such as iris and retina) are considered as sensitive data and should not be processed unless there is a specific legitimate purpose, which cannot be achieved otherwise.
Genetic data refers to the inherited or acquired genetic characteristics of a person and are obtained through a DNA or RNA analysis. DNA test results can be used for diagnosing and treating diseases, determining parenthood. In addition, they are used for crime investigation and scientific research purposes. Nowadays, it is also possible to submit biological samples for DNA testing to explore information regarding your ancestry.
Genetic data can expose unique information not only about our own physiology and health conditions but also about that of our family members. It is considered sensitive personal data and is given a particularly high level of protection.
Any information related to our physical or mental health is health-related data. This can be reflected in a medical diagnosis, notes made by a doctor, hospital test results, documentation related to appointments, prescriptions and surgeries, among others.
These data are mostly stored by healthcare institutions, either electronically or as paper documents. Unauthorized access to a person’s health records may significantly affect one’s private and professional life. For this reason, information about an individual’s health condition is sensitive data and may be disclosed to third parties based only on an individual’s explicit consent or in very limited cases such as for the purposes of safeguarding public health or a person’s vital interests.
Internet browsing history refers to the list of websites visited by internet users. It includes the name of a website, the time of the visit and links to the websites viewed. In its broader meaning, internet browsing history reflects any electronic footprint left by a user on the internet such as search history, likes, shares and comments on social media, and information stored in cookies.
Our internet browsing history helps us keep track of our recently visited websites so that we can easily retrieve them. At the same time, it also reveals our online behaviour and interests. That is why browsing history and associated data are often collected by companies and used to better match their advertisements to the target audience.
In the case of using shared devices, we should remember that our browsing history may be visible to others as well. While it is virtually impossible to completely restrict third party access to your internet browsing history, you can reduce risks by browsing in an incognito mode, disabling cookies, paying attention to the privacy policies of favourite websites and, of course, clearing your browsing history which can be done in any internet browser.
Whether it is a criminal case or a civil dispute, the outcome of any judicial proceeding is reflected in a court judgement. A judgement does not only refer to legal provisions but may also contain a wide variety of personal data including names, addresses, date of birth, civil status, obligations and sometimes very sensitive and intimate details of the parties involved.
In certain countries, court decisions are public and sometimes even available online; however, in order to protect privacy, most countries publish them without disclosing the personal data of individuals.
When we want to find someone or something online, the keyword is what we type into the search box. Numbers, words, names, questions or even a single letter are keywords that give us search results. Using the proper keyword makes our search faster and easier.
Keywords, as such, are not personal data but what we search for can reveal significant information about our personality, our preferences and our behaviour. Whether you are looking for information on a person of interest, places, symptoms of a disease or song lyrics, be aware that these can be collected and analysed by companies to offer tailored advertisements.
Places we have visited, our everyday routes, our current geographic location – these are data that can be collected from our smartphones and other electronic devices. Location records may give away important information about a person’s lifestyle and personal interests. For instance, disclosing information about our visits to the gym, shopping malls or a political party’s office may reveal our hobbies, interests, habits or political affiliations.
Finding a route through map applications, checking in on social networks and ordering taxi rides, among others, naturally require information about our location. However, sometimes we allow access to our location to such websites and applications that do not necessarily require it for providing their services.
A simple tip to help protect your location data from being collected is to disable location services on your devices. Also, carefully read the privacy policies of applications and consider how trustworthy they are before allowing them to see where you are and where you have been.
Whether you are single, married, divorced or in a civil partnership, this is your personal data.
A lot of people may be interested to know about your marital status – out of simple curiosity or sometimes for valid reasons. In visa applications or census and market research, for example, it is logical to inquire about a person’s civil status. Before sharing, however, we have the right to know the reasons and purposes for which this information is being collected.
If shared online, our marital status becomes a part of our digital identity and can be used for targeted marketing campaigns. So, if you said “I do” and are excited to share the happy news on social networks, be aware that by updating your marital status you are giving away information not only about yourself but also about your “significant other.”
Our name is the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about our personal data. Every official record contains our name and surname.
We have the right to obtain copies of files that are linked to our name from public and private organisations in accordance with relevant laws. If our name is misspelled, we can request a correction and if changed - its update.
Our name by itself is not sufficient for identifying us directly but it does create the basis for our further identification. If we search for a name or a surname on the internet, it may lead us to social network accounts, photos or videos that have been shared publicly, professional network profiles or even film and song playlists created on various websites.
Origins can refer to the specific place of our birth but apart from a geographic area, it may also give away information about our cultural and ethnic backgrounds as well as our lifestyle and dietary or clothing habits. Origins are an important element of each person’s identity and they may also reveal certain commonalities with other people.
Information about our ethnic origin is sensitive personal data and falls under the special protection of confidentiality. It may be collected and used only with our consent or in exceptional cases defined by law.
There was a time when you had to make an appointment to have your photo taken. Nowadays, you can snap a selfie at any time and share it online within seconds.
As easy as it is to share photos, we should not forget that once publicly shared, the image becomes available for anyone and we might lose control over it. Certain photos might even affect your personal or professional life; for this reason, you should carefully choose those with whom you share your photos. Before tagging your friends in photos on social networks, you might also consider asking their permission. Special care should be taken while sharing photos of children.
Photos play an important role in personal identification and are usually attached to various official documents such as passports and driving licences. Public and private organisations that store photos in their databases have the obligation to ensure their proper protection.
Qualification includes information about our academic and professional background, training courses we have taken or projects we have completed. We often publicly share our success stories through professional and social networks; we also disclose a wide variety of personal information, including our previous and current positions, skills and places where we have studied.
Organisations that collect and store information about our qualification might compile our personal files and in some cases even share the data with third parties. These organisations are required to comply with the principles of personal data processing and ensure the security of information.
A person’s religious belief is a very private issue and like other sensitive data, it should be protected appropriately. It is a matter of choice to disclose whether or not you practice a religion and if yes – which one.
Our religious belief reveals not only our religious affiliation but may also disclose other personal information, for example, our lifestyle or the places we typically visit (churches, mosques, synagogues or temples, among others).
Information about religious beliefs may be collected on the basis of our consent or in exceptional cases, for example, when they are necessary for scientific or historical research purposes, provided that appropriate safeguards are in place. In any case, the confidentiality of these data should be protected.
A social number (in some countries also known as a personal identification number) is a unique number that is assigned to a person and appears on the identity documents. Even if you change your name or surname, your social number remains the same. For this reason, it is widely used in different services to uniquely identify a person.
The social number or personal identification number might be necessary for public bodies to provide us with a variety of services: to ensure our participation in elections or issue travel documents, among others. Our social number can also be essential for receiving services from certain private organisations, for example, while applying for a loan or insurance.
Everyone should take special care of documents containing our social numbers and be careful before disclosing them to others since this may create risks of identity theft which can cause significant financial harm.
A telephone number is one of the key tools for our day-to-day personal and business communications. We indicate our telephone number when filling out different forms or when registering for instant messaging applications. Certain e-mail providers and social networks also use our number for verification purposes as a means of preventing unauthorized access to our accounts. Telephone numbers are often included in directories as well but we have the right to request them to be removed from such lists.
A particular example of companies using our telephone numbers is marketing. Can you count how many times you have been disturbed by unsolicited calls or advertising texts offering you products or services? Luckily, the laws of many countries provide the possibility to opt out of receiving marketing texts and calls from companies.
Upon graduation, we enter the job market and eagerly share our newly-obtained degree with numerous potential employers. When applying for a job, a study course or a program, we often attach a copy of our diploma or a transcript of our academic records to make our application stand out. Transcripts or test results reveal our academic performance and other personal details such as our ID number and date of birth, among others. Organisations that collect information about our academic achievements are required to store this data only for the period necessary to achieve the purposes of its collection, ensure its confidentiality and obtain our consent before sharing it.
Nowadays, we see video cameras everywhere we look – in shops, streets, office buildings and airports. They capture our movements, locations and behaviour, all of which may be recorded or monitored in real time.
The privacy laws of many countries allow video surveillance for the purposes of protecting property and ensuring public safety but carrying out surveillance also has to comply with certain rules. For example, warning signs should be in place to inform people they are within a video surveillance area. Also, cameras are not allowed in lavatories or changing rooms.
When it comes to video footage, different countries apply different regulations for its storage, use, access and disclosure. What is common, however, is that video footage should be retained for a definite period of time and accessed only by a limited number of authorised persons.
Witness testimony is the recollection of events given by a witness at a court trial. As evidence it has critical importance for investigating crimes and usually contains numerous personal data about the witnesses themselves as well as other persons. The testimony is attached to court proceeding records and sometimes may be audio- or video-recorded.
When witness testimonies contain highly sensitive information, court hearings may be closed to the public. In exceptional cases, when witnesses may be threatened or intimidated, they can even participate in witness protection programs that entail changing their identity or concealing it through various means.
An X-ray helps your doctor diagnose, monitor and treat your particular health or medical condition. In the age of digital technology, it is easy to store X-ray images electronically and share them among medical personnel to promote high-quality care for patients. However, X-ray images contain information about our health which is sensitive personal data. Therefore, like other health-related information, X-ray images should be stored safely and be accessible only to patients and relevant professionals.
Most of us love receiving gifts, congratulations and cards on our birthdays. Apart from the celebrations, with every new birthday we also reach certain milestones in our lives - being eligible for a driving licence, reaching the legal voting age, retirement and pension, among others.
Our year of birth is requested while filling out official applications, registering on social networks and signing up for e-mail accounts. When there are age limits set for receiving certain services, it might be necessary not only to disclose our age but also provide documents to verify that we are as old as we say we are.
A zip code or postal code is a combination of letters and/or digits included in a postal address which indicates the area of one’s residence or work place. Zip codes are personal data and in combination with other data they can be used to identify a person.
Zip codes were initially introduced to make the sorting of mail faster. In order to pinpoint a location with utmost accuracy, the United States has added a further series of four digits to the original five-digit zip code. Now, with the development of online shopping, these codes have become an essential piece of information not only for accurate delivery, but also defining delivery times and calculating shipping fees.