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How Much Personal Information is Actually Out There?

Posted February 9, 2016by Joseph Tavano

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Have you ever Googled your own name? What about your current (or former) address? Have you ever tried to find something you wrote 10 years ago? Twenty years ago? Can you find a picture of your own face on the Internet?

If you’ve been on the Internet long enough to remember the “Information Superhighway,” the odds are that you can answer in the affirmative to one or more of these answers. And while it can be unsettling to find your personal information “out there,” it may be even more unsettling to consider the idea that you created more data—far off on a database, somewhere—just by searching for these things!

Now, consider all the usernames, passwords, PINs and secure accounts that you have created. It’s easy to think that, over time, the number of these active accounts could easily end up totaling in the hundreds. What becomes of them as they age? What becomes of them as you age? As the Internet escapes its early years and matures in unexpected and unforeseen ways and the proliferation of cloud-based applications and storage takes hold in consumer and enterprise sectors, the end-user license agreements, privacy policies, and digital rights ownership of personal data becomes a labyrinth far too complex to navigate in its entirety. Think about it: how is MySpace today storing its user data from 2005? Will that data still be around when Millennials hit retirement age?

This is an emerging and relatively new field of study for those of us in IT and in legislation as well. Data privacy policies in years past and today pay little regard to what happens to users as they age and pass away. It may be a little morbid, but it’s an important concept that MSPs may be facing in an increasing amount as more computer-fluent generations begin to age. When users die, what happens to the personal information that exists out there? How do families and loved ones begin to sift through and make sense of the usernames, passwords, devices and accounts that the departed had access to? While a case from Canada has shed more light on the subject, it can mean more than an Apple ID; it could mean the difference between families accessing important legal documents, financial accounts and more.

Increasingly, the lines demarcating what is personal and public information is being blurred as the digital environments make up more and more of an individual’s life, and how this information is managed over the duration of users’ lives is beginning to take hold. In the absence of specific legal precedents, MSPs are able to apply their expertise to set specific user policies, maintain proper backup and disaster recovery (BDR) environments and assist with data retention policies that not only benefit the current user, but provide access to legacy data if that need arises. Anticipating client needs such as these may be what sets an MSP apart from their competition.

 

Read more from Joe:

Is it time to revisit your data retention policies?

Download-Data-Retention-Best-Practices-The-Year-Round-Spring-Cleaning-Guide

Joseph Tavano is Senior Content Marketing Manager at Continuum, with more than 14 years of experience in content creation, content marketing, event marketing, marketing communications, demand generation and editorial across a range of industries. He is the author of several eBooks, blog posts, thought-leadership articles and other marketing and product collateral that enable Continuum partners and IT service providers in the channel to make their businesses stronger and grow their profits. In 2016, he launched the Continuum Podcast Network, which publishes multiple shows every week and reaches tens of thousands of IT professionals every year. A native of Boston, he holds bachelors in English and History from Suffolk University and resides in Salem, Massachusetts.

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