A new report from the Irish Data Protection Authority (DPA) has highlighted the use of data analytics by the largest of the internet giants to target people based on their location.
The DPA has released its new ‘Big Data and Big Data Analytics’ report, which was commissioned by the Government in the wake of the 2016 Dail election, which saw a majority of TDs vote against the creation of a Data Protection Commissioner.
It says the use and disclosure of data is now so pervasive that data analytics are being deployed on a ‘massive scale’.
It has identified that the internet companies have now created more than 30 ‘data analytics systems’ which it says are responsible for more than a third of the 1.3 billion internet users in the country.
While some companies are working to protect the privacy of their users, the DPA says it has found that data is being used in ‘an unprecedented manner’.
This includes ‘data mining’ which involves a company identifying a person’s personal information by their web browsing activity, or their IP address, and then asking them to share it with other companies.
It is believed that the use is ‘broadly encompassing’ from identifying people based in the UK and Europe to targeting people based elsewhere in the world.
In a statement the DFA said that ‘data analysis systems’ are being created to ‘analyze a person or their data and use it to create targeted advertisements, targeted marketing campaigns, or other similar purposes’.
It says these systems, which have the capacity to process hundreds of terabytes of data, are being used ‘to monitor, predict, identify, target and monetise online activity and the social media networks that comprise it’.
The DFA has also identified that some of these systems ‘are being deployed at the national, local and regional levels’.
This is because they have the capability to ‘identify, target, monetise and share information in an aggregated manner’ from across the internet.DPA chief executive Dermot Grieve said that this is a ‘critical opportunity’ for internet companies to create and operate ‘comprehensive and comprehensive’ data protection policies.
The report says that ‘many internet companies are currently using data analytics systems to monitor their customers’ activities on social media platforms’.
It adds that these systems are ‘being deployed at a massive scale, with a combined total of approximately 50 million people’ having their personal data ‘exposed’.
In its report, the organisation says that this data can include ‘content, demographics, social networks, geolocation data, IP addresses, geographic locations and the IP address of a user’s device’.DPA Director of Digital Strategy, Peter Byrne, said that there is a need to ensure that data ‘is protected and used appropriately and that users are not being exposed to discriminatory, invasive or unlawful uses of their personal information’.
Mr Byrne added that it was critical that companies work to ensure the ‘personal data of the Irish public is protected and protected properly and that people have confidence that their personal privacy is respected’.
In particular, Mr Byrne said that companies must ensure that their ‘data protection policies are designed to protect their users’ data.
Dermot Byrne said the DPP had recently ‘announced a number of measures to protect data that is stored online and is transmitted over the internet’ as part of the Digital Agenda.
The new report outlines the steps that companies are taking to ensure they comply with these obligations.
According to the DPEA, the use, disclosure and processing of data ‘can lead to a range of negative consequences including discrimination, harassment and coercion, as well as unlawful surveillance, invasion of privacy and data theft’.