Why is it important to understand data protection policies?

Today, just like every 28th of January for the last 15 years, is Data Protection Day. Its aim is to inform and educate internet users about their rights and responsibilities relating to data protection. Because, all too often, we’re unaware of the risks that using the internet poses.

Personal data and targeted advertising

To understand the importance of data privacy, it’s important to know what personal data is. Personal data is considered to be any information about a person who is identified or identifiable, such as name and surname, address, ID number, income, cultural profile or IP address, amongst others.

I’m sure it’s happened to you – you’ve spoken to a friend about a specific product, like a pair of trainers, and after that conversation your internet searches and social media were suddenly covered with adverts for trainers, sports clothes, heart rate monitors or races. Or maybe you booked your next holiday in Tuscany, and then were inundated with adverts for pasta, Chianti or guided tours of Florence.

I’m sorry to say that it’s not a coincidence. This is targeted advertising and, to be able to personalize it to our tastes and habits, companies need to compile our personal data.

How do companies get our personal data?

The Spanish Office for Online Safety (Oficina de Seguridad del Internauta – OSI), part of the National Cybersecurity Institute (INCIBE), details three ways in which personal data can be obtained.

  1. Cookies. These are files that are saved on our computers through our browsers and make the internet a more controlled, personalized place. Although there are various kinds of cookie, third party cookies can be a danger to our data privacy. These cookies are the ones used to create user profiles based on our consumer tastes and habits and are used for advertising.
  2. Local browser storage. Browsers have improved the way they operate significantly in recent years, but that’s come at the cost of compiling user data, including location and download history, cache data and images, passwords and data from forms.
  3. Voice recordings on our mobile devices. Voice assistants and the apps we allow to use the microphones on our mobiles can also be used to access our personal data.

The famous GDPR: basic information

As users of a website or clients of an online store, it’s our right to have our data protected. In the member states of the European Union, the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), which is in charge of making sure this is complied with, came into force on the 25th of May 2018.

Although I won’t go into its legal complexities, I will sum its aim up briefly: since the GDPR came into effect, companies are obliged to ask their clients’ permission to collect their data, explain how it will be processed and give them the option to access their personal data, edit it and remove it from their systems.

The GDPR applies both to companies that process personal data and are based in the European Union, no matter where the data is processed, and companies that are based outside the EU but process personal data related to goods or services offered to its citizens.

To what extent are GDPR, internationalisation and translation related?

As the GDPR has been mandatory in all EU countries since May 2018, all companies are obliged to adapt their legal texts, information request forms, registration forms and subscription confirmation messages on their websites, online shops and marketing materials to comply with the GDPR.

Therefore, any company interested in expanding into EU countries is obliged to translate all GDPR-related information on its websites and online shops into the languages of its target audience in order to guarantee users’ rights.

It’s important that this information is accessible in a clear way, since if the text is difficult to understand or contains errors, companies may be in breach of the GDPR. In that case, they could face sanctions running into the millions and a loss of credibility. That’s why it’s advisable to take care when translating this type of text and opt for quality translations, so that our right to protect our personal data isn’t limited.


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