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The Fundamentals of Data Privacy in America

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The Fundamentals of Data Privacy in America

In the last few years, data privacy, network security, cyber attacks etc. have all become buzz words. Zuckerberg’s trial and sudden emails from companies saying “We have updated our privacy policy” have got us all thinking about what this is all about. Today we will provide you with a simple guide to understand the data privacy space in America and how it is (or not) regulated.

What is Data Privacy?

Data privacy does not have a set definition. Even the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which is considered as the most comprehensive piece of law in data privacy has not defined it. But to understand it in simple terms, let’s break down the two words:

  1. Data: Data in the context of data privacy can include any of your personal information. Ranging from sensitive personal information like passwords, social security numbers, address etc. to other personal information like your chats, photographs, even your usage of emojis. Thus, every movement of yours can be converted into data and be monetised.
  2. Privacy: Privacy is your right to protect your personal space and be in control of what others are allowed to see.

Thus, data privacy means your right to protect and have control over any personal data. In the booming era of technology, your right to data privacy extends to online spaces, which means you must have the right to control the data online companies store about you. This idea has now emerged into a greater set of rights like the right to access, right to correct, right to be forgotten etc.

Why does Data Privacy Matter?

A question that often arises in the minds of people is that why is so much hue and cry over data privacy even necessary. And why should I be scared of sharing my personal details if I’m not doing anything wrong?

Let’s think of this, say you are put in the room with 4-5 CCTV cameras constantly monitoring and broadcasting your activities. Will there not be a difference in your behaviour immediately? Data storage by corporations works in the same way. Corporations collecting and monetizing your online activities is not only unethical but is also no different from a virtual CCTV. Hence, it is your right to not be under constant surveillance even if there is no tangible harm being done to you.

It’s not like data storage cannot lead to tangible harms. Data leaks across the world have led to major crimes like phishing, stalking, financial crimes etc. Hence, data privacy matters not only in and of itself but it is also a means to protect you from any other crimes.

What is the Legal Framework for Data Privacy in America?

Unlike the EU, America does not have an all-encompassing law on data privacy. But it has several other laws at the federal and state level, which protect and deal with data privacy. This framework, however, is incomplete and there are many areas like Right to be forgotten, Right to erasure etc., which are still not available to every American. Here is a guide to all the laws concerning data privacy in the USA.

Federal Laws

  1. Privacy Act, 1974

This is one of the first privacy legislation around the world. It deals with the collection, use and distribution of “personally identifiable data”.But the caveat here is that it only deals with information collected by the government. It provides citizens with a restricted right to obtain the data stored by the government, a right to correct data collected. It also ensures that only limited and necessary people within the government have access to your personally identifiable information.

But, as mentioned, this only deals with governments. Hence private corporations are not bound by this.

  1. USA PATRIOT Act

An acronym for Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act, 200, this act was brought in immediately after the 9/11 attacks. An act that was initially aimed to counter terrorism has now become a tool for unnecessary governmental surveillance.

This law allows the government to collect and store any personal information about any person if they feel that they may be engaging in terrorist activities. With regards to data privacy, this act becomes relevant because it has provisions where the governments can seek personal information about any individual from third parties upon a mere doubt. Simply put, this means that the government can ask Facebook to deliver personal information about you, without your consent and Facebook will be bound to deliver it. Let alone consent you probably might not also be made aware of your data being shared by the government.

This act has become an important concern in the data privacy space not just in America but also in Europe and other jurisdictions with strict data privacy laws.

  1. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Act

This is the Act behind all the heavy fines imposed on Facebook, Uber etc. for privacy violations. Ironically, this act does even directly deal with data privacy! FTC is an independent law enforcement agency aimed to prevent unfair competition and protect consumers. Here is how the FTC increased its scope to deal with data privacy.

Now Section 5 of this Act prohibits companies from practising any deceptive activities in the marketplace. In the case of Facebook, it acted against its privacy policy and allowed third parties to use the personal data of individuals without their consent. Since the privacy policy was different from their actual actions, this was termed to be “deceptive” and FTC was allowed to take an action.

What this means for data privacy is that unless there is a clear violation of company policy, the FTC cannot take any action. So in cases where companies sneakily make you agree to their terms and conditions, the FTC cannot do anything.

  1. Sector-based laws

There are several other sector-based regulations which deal with information of a certain group or sector of individuals. They do not directly deal with data on the internet but are indirectly applicable. Here are a few:

Children’s Online Protection of Privacy Act (COPPA): This restricts the collection of data of children under the age of 12. Data can only be collected upon explicit consent by the parents.

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA): This act was designed to protect medical and health-related information of patients, It allows only those involved in treatment and other medical processes to access your health information. It requires your consent before it is shared with anyone else.

State laws

  1. Data Breach Notification

This is common between all 50 states in America. If there is a data breach i.e. a loss or accidental publication of data, the company who suffers from such a breach is mandated to notify it with the state governments. This helps in making consumers aware if there is any data breach by a company which stores their information.

  1. California Consumer Privacy Act, 2018

This is one of the most comprehensive laws on data privacy in the USA. Although it is only applicable to people in California, this act is a good blueprint for a federal law. This act provides consumers with a right to access and delete any personal information held by corporations. Additionally, it also requires companies to provide reasonable security of data to consumers. However, it still does not impose any mandatory security procedures or fines on corporations. How useful and effective this act becomes is something only time will tell.

  1. Others

Maryland, New York, Hawaii, Massachusetts etc. are also in the process of getting their own data privacy laws. Most of them have relied on the GDPR and CCPA and are designing their law accordingly.

However, the problem of data privacy cannot be completely resolved there is a federal law on it. As powerful as state laws can be, they still will always have restrictions when it comes to global data collections and cross-border data transactions.

How Can You Protect Your Data?

Perfect laws have never existed. There are always going to be some loopholes and difficulties in every law. It is then important for us to take preventive measures to protect ourselves. Here are a few ways in which you can protect your data:

  1. Choose proper passwords: We know it is very difficult to have different passwords for every website. But having just one password for every website can do a lot of damage. So use different passwords every time. Store them in a secured place offline so you do not forget.
  2. Use VPN: Public WiFi’s are great, but they can be mine for data hackers. Always use a VPN when using public WiFi in order to protect your information. VPN i.e. Virtual Private Network gives you a private mechanism to surf the internet. You can also use it to browse content from other countries, so it’s a win-win!
  3. Review App Permissions: You can adjust these in your settings. Review and decline permissions which are unnecessary for an app to function.

Cyberspace is still evolving and there are many things that the American law still does not cover. But we hope this gave you a brief understanding of the current data privacy space in America. Your data is very important and needs to be protected. So ensure you take appropriate measures to protect yourself.

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The case for AI technology adoption in financial back-office roles to improve efficiency

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The case for AI technology adoption in financial back-office roles to improve efficiency 1

By Tomas Gogar, AI CEO, Rossum

In this era, digital transformation isn’t anything new. Nonetheless, it can still cause a lot of confusion and resistance for some companies, many of which are often slow, unwilling or unable to implement the necessary changes to embrace technology. As a result, entire industries are barely scratching the surface when it comes to shifting to the digital world, and many, from the insurance industry to logistics and delivery are still catching up on the digital transformation.

The banking and financial sector have been notoriously slow in adapting to the online world. They paid the high price for it, giving way to a flurry of incredibly successful new disruptive players, built on cutting edge tech from the ground up. From Transferwise, Revolut or Venmo, to GoCardless, this new generation of fintech companies addressed consumers changing expectations in a way that traditional retails banks simply couldn’t.

To catch up, incumbent players have prioritised the user interfaces, giving the appearance of a digital offering, and oftentimes leaving the back end infrastructure untouched, and hence the processing power, accuracy and speed unaffected. Back-office functions, although they are essential to the smooth running of a business, have seen very little change and as a result,  too many people in these functions are still tied up typing information into spreadsheets and software forms – in fact, manual data entry is a prime example of how much resources the offline legacy wastes. Take Accounts Payable for example, invoice data entry in this sector is estimated to eat up roughly 100 human lives worth of time every single day.

Tomas Gogar

Tomas Gogar

With the significant increase in the number of employees working from home due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the back-office challenges have suddenly come to light, and finally, companies that got away with minimal changes so far, are realising that they need a structural digital overhaul, and fast. We believe the solution to this is artificial intelligence backed software solutions.

Previous technology based solutions essentially did half the job, heavily depending on human fact checking. Consequently, these solutions were actually quite cumbersome and time consuming and costly to implement and maintain, and offered only incremental improvements. Now with AI, automises data processing completely removing the need for human fact checking (and human error!). Additionally, deployment is massively simplified with an average setup time of one week, compared to about 6 months for previous technologies.   AI solutions are also highly adaptable to new formats and scenarios, allowing businesses to test them in say one department and to quickly roll out a single unified solution across all functions of the business.   Data can be extracted from any invoice layout with no template or rule set-up, saving significant and effort. Rather than trying to change and standardise a highly fragmented environment (there are about as many invoice formats as there are businesses), AI can work with it, and optimise the overall process and offer a unified answer to a fragmented ecosystem.

Taking Accounts Payable as an example again, this is a sector that has relied by and large on Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software solutions in an attempt to remove some of the manual labour involved in reading processing and filing invoices. Although OCR did improve the processes to a certain degree, ultimately these types of solutions still required a long and expensive set up processes and a lot of manual labour to actually capture the data accurately with templates and manual data entry. Now, with AI software, like the one we have created, this is a solution that makes data extraction simple and easy, saving time and man power, as well as building on existing infrastructure. It has the ability to transform this industry.

In conclusion, for a sector that has been slow to adopt digital change, AI is THE technology answer that is finally fixing the invisible pain points that businesses had simply accepted as unremovable. AI applied in this way offers a viable way forward and businesses that were notoriously slow and resistant to embrace the digital transition, incentivised to make a change, may actually end up at the head of the pack. Skipping ‘older tech’ and jumping straight into AI solutions, the best scenario available by far, is indeed the smartest, fastest and most cost effective way to transition into the digital world.

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InsurTech is helping to drive the digital evolution of the UK motor retail industry

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InsurTech is helping to drive the digital evolution of the UK motor retail industry 2

By Alan Inskip, Tempcover CEO & Founder

If the last nine months have made anything clear, it is that the pandemic has fundamentally changed both buying and driving habits for UK motorists. The latest Tempcover research has revealed that online-only used car sales had increased fifteen-fold during the pandemic among 2,000 survey respondents.

Before lockdown, just 4% of used car sales were fully-digital. The vast majority of those surveyed opted for either a physical purchase (50%) or a digitally-assisted purchase (45%), relying on a combination of digital tools and an in person viewing or road test before buying.

While car sales overall are down on last year’s figures*, one in six (17%) of those surveyed had bought a used car during lockdown, with two thirds (64%) relying on a fully-digital purchase journey. Digitally-assisted purchases counted for one in five (20%) used car sales, while in person sales fell to just 15% – no surprise considering the ongoing social distancing measures.

And when it comes to arranging insurance for their recently-purchased vehicle, our survey participants displayed an equal balance between telephone and online as the preferred method (48% each). Nearly a third of those (28%) said they wait up to ten minutes for their policy to be confirmed, and a further 22% wait as long as 20 minutes to get cover.

The switch to digital insurance, driven by InsurTech

In the midst of rapid and significant market changes, many traditional insurers have lacked the agility and flexibility to adapt accordingly. InsurTech can provide immense value in bridging that gap, as the digital solutions are entirely scalable, with the flexibility to substantially increase in size and across multiple geographies, with minimal disruption.

Alan Inskip

Alan Inskip

The ongoing decline of physical transactions in the motor retail industry is a perfect example of how InsurTech is adding value. Several national blue-chip dealerships, with both physical and digital showroom floors, are already streamlining their online purchase process by offering temporary driveaway insurance policies to cover the vehicle for a fixed-term, usually between five to seven days, as part of the purchase journey.

The entirely online one-step user experience is the first of its kind in the traditionally outdated and inflexible driveaway insurance industry and it is dramatically simplifying the process of how insurance is purchased and consumed. Due to the flexibility and agility of the digital solution, each retailer has its own unique URL, where the customer can obtain a simple single-cost policy in just 90 seconds through an entirely digital process, which fits in line with the evolving consumer purchase trends.

For the dealers, this technology means more efficient stock clearance times and greater profitability. For the buyers, it takes the stress out of searching for annual insurance on the spot, and provides the driver with near instant cover so that they can immediately drive their new car, while giving them the opportunity to thoroughly research the best annual policy to suit their needs. An added benefit is there’s no risk to any existing No Claims Discount, as it’s a separate and standalone policy.

While there is a chance these trends will reverse to some extent post pandemic, it is clear that the consumer appetite for digital purchase and consumption is here to stay, and InsurTech will continue to lead the way in making motor insurance more easily-accessible across digital platforms, while offering consumers the best value for money.

* https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/cars/article-8615851/Used-car-sales-halved-lockdown-brakes-1m-motor-transactions.html

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Five ways enterprises are using the public cloud

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Five ways enterprises are using the public cloud 3

By Michael Chalmers, MD EMEA at Contino

The public cloud is the most significant enabler in a generation. It’s causing a massive shift in how businesses are operating and tearing apart previous business models.

Amid challenging economic times, it’s inevitable that spending within IT is dropping. However, the cloud is the only segment that is still growing. The public cloud is increasingly becoming a central element of enterprise IT.

Contino asked 250 IT decision-makers at enterprise companies across Europe, USA and APAC within companies of over 5,000 employees about their views on the state of the public cloud within their organisation at the beginning of 2020.  Nearly all of them (99%) saw a significant technical benefit compared with on-premises.

Here are some other ways public cloud is being used by enterprises:

  1. Widely, albeit not yet business wide.

A whopping 77% of enterprises are using the public cloud in some capacity. Overall, 50% of businesses are utilising a hybrid cloud, 22% single private cloud, 20% multi-cloud, 7% single public cloud and only 1% are using only on-premises.

But only 13% of businesses have a fully-fledged public cloud program. The largest set of respondents (42%) have multiple apps/projects deployed in the cloud. 24% were still working on initial proofs-of-concept, and 18% were in the planning stages.

83% of respondents said they want to grow their cloud program. Almost half (48%) do wish to grow, but with caution, while 36% want to move as quickly as possible.

Only 4% plan to revert to on-premises but are in no rush to do so.

  1. To enhance security and compliance versus on-premises, although these are still also seen as barriers to adoption.

A massive 64% of respondents stated they find this more secure than on-premises, and only 7% see it to be less secure. 72% found it easier to stay compliant with business data in the cloud versus only 4% who found it harder.  However, 48% cited that their biggest barrier for not using the cloud was security, and 37% stated the need to remain compliant was the most prevalent blocker.

Other challenges also posed a barrier: a lack of skills, the cost to purchase and cloud-native operating models not working with existing investments made up 29-32% of responses.

19% stated that lack of leadership buy-in is the biggest barrier, reflecting that a significant number of IT departments have a need for this solution but have not been provided with the support to do so. However, relatively speaking, this was one of the least-cited barriers.

  1. For improved efficiency, scalability and agility, but vendor lock-in is still a major concern.

The top three cited technical benefits of public cloud were better efficiency, agility and scalability versus on-premises. However, 63% of IT professionals were ‘somewhat’ or ‘very much’ afraid of the commitment that can come with investing in the cloud. This is another major barrier that is preventing businesses from ​migrating to the cloud.

Only 23% are not afraid of being locked in and a meagre 5% have no fear at all. However, the fact that 77% of businesses are using the cloud shows any risk of being locked in is outweighed by the benefits of the cloud.

  1. To align IT with the business.

This is by far the most cited business benefit of the public cloud. 100% of those surveyed witnessed varied business benefits versus on-premises. Other major benefits include the ability to focus on new revenues (43%), accelerated time-to-market (43%), and increased ROI (40%).

  1. To accelerate innovation and increases cost-effectiveness.

Innovating in the cloud was quicker for 81% of respondents. What’s more, not one person surveyed said the cloud slowed down their innovation. 79% have saved money with the cloud and only 5% have found it more of an expense than on-premises.

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