In an increasingly digital age, business changes are more than just necessary, they’re inevitable. Businesses all over the world now have access to more data than ever before thought possible. This certainly brings about a whole host of opportunities, but many, many challenges as well.
For instance, companies rely on customer data to market to new and existing customers. They may collect customer email addresses and passwords to create a database of accounts. There’s also customer data that a business collects at a point of sale, like credit card and address information. Businesses also have all their employee and vendor information stored somewhere. The digitization of the global economy has given businesses access to a wealth of information and given organizations a way to store and centralize it, but it has also put them at risk in a lot of ways. As technology advances and grows, so do the threats against it.
What is pseudonymization?
Data protection and privacy continue to be a priority for businesses. One technique that GDPR compliant businesses are utilizing in their commitment to data privacy is pseudonymization. This is what that looks like.
Pseudonymization takes personal data and ensures that it can’t be linked back to one source or single user without additional data. For instance, if a company has your name, email address, age, nationality, and workplace name, pseudonymization takes the data that’s identifiable about you specifically (your name, age, etc.) and makes it inaccessible and separate from non-identifying data, like your nationality. Pseudonymous data can be put back together at some point so that all information can be taken together and linked back to a specific source or person.
Can pseudonymization help protect your business’s data?
Here are some techniques that pseudonymization uses.
This technique mixes or randomizes letters in identifiable information. “Thomas” can become “Msaoht” for instance. The data is still there, it’s just mixed up and harder to understand at face value.
Encryption brings up thoughts of old spy movies where data can’t be accessed without a specific code to render the data both accessible and intelligible. This is a fairly accurate description of how encryption works. Encrypting data makes it unreadable and can’t be revealed or reversed to its original form without the decryption code. GDPR policies state that the decryption key is to be kept separate from the encrypted data.
This technique is found on credit card statements or documents with someone’s social security number on them. The first series of numbers is usually represented by an X and the last few digits are shown as the true digits. A social security number would be rendered as XXX-XXX-4567. It’s also the same technique that shows your password as a series of asterisks when being typed into a password field.
This pseudonymization method protects data by replacing sensitive data with non-sensitive data, referred to as tokens. The tokens have no meaning or value. It doesn’t alter the length or type of data, so it can later be processed by a system that’s sensitive to length and type characteristics.
#5. Data blurring
This technique uses literal blurring to create an image that is impossible to identify. A typical example is the pixelated blurring of faces you might see on the news.
Pseudonymization helps reduce the possibility that even if data is stolen or accessed, no one will easily be able to trace the sensitive, personal data back to one person or source, even if other non-sensitive information is accessible. It also allows for those who may need that sensitive information later, and individuals who have given permission to have and use it – banks, for instance – to be able to store the information safely with a way of rendering the sensitive information later as readable. This two-way process is important in protecting the data from unauthorized access and also allowing certain levels of accessibility. It has proven to be an important part of protecting privacy and data in the ongoing quest for reduced data exposure and privacy breaches.