Posted on April 16, 2020 by staff

Coronavirus situation ‘increases threat to our online privacy’


A personal data start-up has warned people and businesses will be at greater risk of online threats during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Gal Ringel, chief executive and co-founder of Israel-based Mine, says the new dependency on technology tools while in isolation means people are increasing their digital footprint by more than 50 per cent.

As a result, this means they are leaving themselves more exposed to the risk of their data being collected and used by corporations and hackers.

Mine shows users which businesses are holding their personal information by scanning their email inbox using artificial intelligence (AI). The online tool then allows them to select with just one click the organisations they don’t wish to share their data with, and Mine automatically sends a right-to-be-forgotten email to the privacy department of each organisation to request the information is removed.

Isolation measures across the globe have seen a massively increased dependence on the online world, through people working from home, ordering online and keeping in touch with news, friends and relatives.

Since the outbreak started, Mine has measured a spike of more than 50% in new online sign-ups, which means 50% more of our personal data is shared.

Using the aggregated data of tens of thousands of users, UK figures show a 51% overall increase in digital footprint, compared with 66% in France and, at the lower end of the six countries researched, 36% in Germany.

In the UK, there has been a 19% increase in data being shared in the area of media and entertainment, followed by food and ecommerce (18%) and government and health (five per cent), the latter through sign-ups to COVID-19 announcements and real-time notifications.

Mine also looked at the top six new sign-ups in each of the six countries it researched. The top six in the UK were Zoom, Disney plus, My Hermes, Spotify, Tesco and Trainline.

Ringel urged users to be aware of the amount of data they are sharing and exercise their GDPR rights where necessary. He said: “Since the coronavirus pandemic began, we’ve all been moving our offline activities online – buying everything online and using new services we haven’t used before – so clearly that requires us to share more personal data.

“Our job, as users, is to keep our data only where we really need it so that there is less chance of our data being used against us, whether that’s through identity theft, reputational damage, financial loss or even manipulation.

“Since the answer is never to get off the grid, we simply have to remember what’s important to us and make sure that the safe boundaries we strive for remain the goal after the global emergency is over. At the same time, we must embrace precautions to protect not only our health but also our information and think twice before sharing personal data with unknown sources.”

Mine says the average person has a digital footprint consisting of 350 companies, a figure that grows by eight every month. For every user, there are an average of 12 data breaches involving organisations holding their data that they weren’t aware of.

Ringel suggests users check in with Mine once a month to scan their emails and keep tabs on their personal data. The service is currently free of charge but will eventually move to a subscription model.