Data privacy laws are laws that are designed to protect individuals and businesses from the distribution of private information to unauthorized recipients. The nature and scope of these types of laws vary somewhat from one country to the next, and often involve protection of data related to financial transactions, ownership of stocks and other types of holdings, credit card and banking information and other types of private data that could be used to exploit the individual or business for fraudulent purposes. In some nations, laws of this type are known as consumer protection laws.
There are a number of different types of data privacy laws in effect today. Many nations provide for a range of employee privacy laws that help to prevent unauthorized individuals from access to information such as wages or salary, the balance of retirement accounts, and other data. There are also data privacy laws that prevent employers from seeking to obtain information regarding employees that is not available from some type of public source.
Health information is another area that is often protected by data privacy laws. Increasingly, access to patient records that are in the possession of an attending physician or a health facility are protected from distribution without the express consent of the patients. This means that access to the data is often restricted to a list of individuals pre-approved by the patient. For example, if an individual is hospitalized, only individuals who have been granted access to the patient’s health data will be allowed to receive updates on the patient’s status. Typically, the list of approved individuals will include a spouse or partner, children, parents, and in some locations close friends who have been approved by the patient may inquire about and receive current information on the patient’s status.
One of the more common examples of data protection laws has to do with the protection of financial data that is considered proprietary. Bank account numbers, credit card numbers, access to stock portfolios, and other types of financial accounts are restricted to only the account holder and whomever he or she designates as authorized to access those accounts. With the advent of the Internet, the need to tighten security restrictions to prevent unauthorized access has come into being as part of the customer data protection strategies employed by many financial institutions. In conjunction with protections placed at the account end, many merchants also make use of security measures that comply with current data privacy laws to protect customers from identity theft during the process of electronic transactions.