Use of personal data on the internet


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Use of personal data on the internet

Personal data like credit card details get submitted online when buying things on the internet

What's coming up

We all need to register with companies or websites sometimes and provide information about ourselves, like our home address or date of birth. But what do these companies do with our information?

In this activity, you'll find out about when you might need to supply personal information online and the restrictions on how companies can use it.

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A range of icons representing different pieces of personal information that can be shared on the internet

Why do companies need personal information?

Information such as your name, address, telephone number, medical history, education and financial records are all examples of personal information.

Personal information is useful to legitimate companies in two ways: it verifies that you are who you say you are when buying goods and services; it helps them to market their products and services to the most likely buyers.

Be careful

If personal information falls into the wrong hands, it can allow criminals to carry out identity theft.

Be careful with your personal information. Don't put your date of birth, address or other personal information on public websites like Facebook.

Different characters representing online dangers
A computer screen shows a secure login page

The Data Protection Act

Any company that holds information about you is required by law to protect it. The Data Protection Act regulates the use of personal data and prevents its misuse. It also gives you the right to ask a company for a copy of all the information it holds about you, although the company can charge you a small fee for providing you with the information.

Companies must:

  • abide by the law and keep your details accurate, safe and secure
  • have a good reason to hold information about you
  • use it only for its original purpose and then dispose of it
  • make sure that information sent abroad will be properly protected.

Personal information

How can you find out what information a company holds about you?

Write to the Citizens Advice Bureau

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Write to the company to ask for all the information they hold about you

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Freedom of Information Act

It's not just companies that are covered by the law. The Freedom of Information Act gives you the right to ask any public body or institution for all the information they have on any subject you choose. Unless there's a good reason not to provide this information, the organisation must provide it within 20 working days.

Public bodies or institutions include:

  • government departments
  • local authorities and councils
  • health trusts and hospitals
  • schools, colleges and universities
  • the police.
Different types of building illustrations to represent government, police, university, council, etc

Company policy and personal information

Every company will have their own company policy with regard to how they use your personal information.

The example here is from the ABC website. It describes how the ABC will use personal data and the terms under which it may disclose this data.

The ABC websites privacy policy
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Well done, you've come to the end of the Use of personal data on the internet activity.

You've learnt how companies might use your personal information and how you can obtain a copy of any information that they store about you.

In the next activity, Online payment and secure areas, you'll learn about buying things online.