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In an increasingly digital world, user data is becoming more and more valuable. Companies can use this data to personalize services, target advertising, and gain a better understanding of their customers. Unfortunately, this data can also be used for malicious purposes. In order to protect user data from such misuse, privacy by default has become an increasingly important security measure.

Our last article discussed the concept of privacy by design, which involves putting measures in place while developing software or hardware. This article will review its child concept, Privacy by Default, and what it means for individuals and companies that operate online.

What is privacy by default and what does it mean for organisations and individuals?
What is privacy by default and what does it mean for organisations and individuals?

What Is ‘Privacy By Default’?

‘Privacy by default’ is an approach to data protection that requires products and services to be designed with the highest possible level of privacy enabled when they are released. This means that the default settings of any product or service should aim to protect user data, and users should not have to make any changes to the settings in order to ensure that their data is secure.

By implementing privacy by default, companies limit the amount of data they can collect and process, as well as the way they use and share that data. This helps to protect user information from being shared without their knowledge or consent, and ensures that only the data that is necessary for the service to function properly is collected.

Privacy By Default vs Privacy By Design: What’s the Difference?

Comparing privacy by default and privacy by design to one another can be tricky, as they address the same thing. A simple way to understand the difference is considering the former an extension of the latter. Privacy by design is a large set of principles that encompasses a number of concepts, such as data minimization and user choice. Privacy by default is essentially a continuation of its second principle, ‘Privacy as the Default Setting’, iterating that privacy should always be the default state of any system, product or service. People often use both terms interchangeably since they have close ties but it’s important to remember that the two terms aren’t completely synonymous. When someone says privacy by default, they’re directly referencing the second principle of privacy by design, not the entire philosophy.

Why Privacy By Default Is Relevant to Businesses That Operate Online

Privacy by default and other principles like it are gaining traction around the world as new consumer privacy regulations make the act of safeguarding user data law. One of the most notable examples of this is the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which under Article 25, requires companies to restrict the data they process to the minimum amount necessary for a specific goal.

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Elements of Privacy By Default

While Privacy by Default isn’t as official as other principles like Privacy by Design, it has several defining characteristics that most experts agree on.
These include:

Data Privacy-First Procedures and Strategies

One of the most important elements of privacy by default is that companies should operate under a data privacy-first policy. This means that, when it comes to collecting, using, or sharing user data, the company should always strive to minimize the amount of data they collect and process, only use the data for the purpose it was collected, and give users control over how and when their data is shared. These parameters should be built into the organization’s written policies and procedures, as well as in their technical choices for how data is stored and transmitted.

Adequate Tools and Resources for Users to Exercise Their Rights

Under privacy by default, businesses must ensure that users are able to exercise their data rights. This means providing adequate tools and resources for users to access, correct, or delete their data. Companies should also ensure that users are informed of their rights when it comes to data privacy through transparent, easily accessible privacy policies.

No Action Necessary

Privacy by Default, Privacy by Design, and laws that rely on their concepts use what’s known as an ‘opt-in’ approach to user consent. It requires that users be given the choice to opt-in to data processing, rather than requiring them to take action in order to opt-out. In the context of Privacy by Default, this goes slightly further to mandate the strictest security settings be enabled by default, meaning the user does not have to take any action in order for those settings to be active. They can still opt in if interested, but will otherwise be assumed to be opting out at the highest level possible.

Default Limitation of Data Processing

Privacy by Default also requires that companies limit the way they collect and use data, to only the most necessary pieces of information. This means that any data collected should be used for one purpose and one purpose only, with no additional processing or sharing of the data without user consent. Companies should also be aware of how long they store data, and delete it when it is no longer necessary for the service. This helps to ensure that user data is only collected and used for legitimate purposes, and never shared with third parties or used for targeting advertising.

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Remaining Compliant With Privacy By Default

Privacy by Default isn’t directly mentioned in consumer data privacy laws, but its principles, along with those of Privacy by Design, remain consistent with many major regulations. It’s therefore in business’ best interests to understand and remain compliant with these concepts, in order to avoid fines and other penalties due to improper data handling.

The concepts of Privacy by Default can be adopted in many ways, including:

  • Investing in a management tool to monitor data collection, storage and usage practices
  • Creating policies that honor each user’s privacy and their right to access, correct, or delete any of their data
  • Encrypting user data when it’s in transit and at rest, and only storing what is necessary
  • Providing users with a clear explanation of their rights regarding data privacy
  • Keeping up-to-date with any changes in law or regulation that might affect future compliance

Privacy by Default is just one piece of a much greater puzzle when it comes to protecting personal data and staying compliant with modern consumer privacy laws. However, it is an important one , and understanding its implications and how it can be implemented is key to helping businesses protect their users. By following the steps outlined above, as well as staying up-to-date with changing regulations and technologies, businesses can ensure that they are providing users with the privacy protections they deserve.


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