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At a time when the economy is increasingly dependent on computer technology, it is easy to take our concept of privacy for granted. We tend to think of large corporations that handle everything from our healthcare records to our financial information as impenetrable fortresses that will keep our private information safe. But is that always the case?

Privacy in the Computer Age

Indeed, we may be surprised to learn just how vulnerable such information actually is and how that information can affect us when it is no longer private. Increasingly, even the “safest” repositories for private information are subject to massive data breaches via programs called “ransomware.” In such cases, large corporations are targeted by computer hackers and made to pay out millions of dollars in ransom money to secure company servers.

Reckoning With the Future

It is also easy to see how leaks of private information can seriously affect the lives of private individuals. For example, suppose that you have confided to a trusted physician that you are concerned about a relative’s health condition and that you might be at risk for having inherited such a condition. 20 years ago, it was highly unlikely that such information could leave a doctor’s office.

Even when there is little to no chance of a doctor revealing such information, it is important to realize that most healthcare records are now stored in hospital and private practice computer databases. The ramifications of such information being leaked are astounding: Potentially, a person could be denied healthcare coverage based on private information exchanged with a physician during a private meeting.

Financial Protections

The same issues can also extend to privacy matters regarding financial information. If a bank’s security protocols are breached, for example, private information such as bank routing numbers or account information could fall into the hands of nefarious individuals. This is to say nothing of data breaches involving Social Security numbers or other information used in identity theft.

To wit, digital privacy is becoming an issue that is vital to the well-being of individuals from all walks of life. And while much of society tends to rely on assumptions of privacy that are rooted in safeguards developed decades ago, the truth is that today’s hackers are using new methods to steal information.

The good news is that public attention regarding privacy matters can often force companies to reevaluate the strengths and weaknesses of their privacy policies and security measures. Increasingly, strengthening customer information security measures will become a major part of doing business. And that is good news for both companies and their customers alike.