Personal Data Leaks And Inflows

Samvel Martirosyan

Media researcher

Azerbaijani hackers, members of the Reyncer group, have released the personal data of several thousand Armenians who have been infected with coronavirus or have been in contact with patients.

Ten days before that, the lists of those who died of coronavirus in Armenia appeared on a Facebook page.

Most likely, these sad stories have nothing to do with each other. The types of leaks are also likely to be different. In one case, the hackers hacked someone’s email, in another case, it was a matter of human treachery.

The fact that such leaks are constantly recorded, from different sources, gives us several lessons. And we have to take those lessons into account.

a) The public response is quite interesting. On the one hand, there is a fair amount of noise and dissatisfaction. There are demands to remove some people.

But you can hardly hear voices saying that there is a need to be more serious about personal data. You will not hear that there is a need to explain to others the dangers of leaking personal information, aside from the opinion that “this is terrible.”

In fact, we live in a society where there is no need to deepen the protection of personal data. Today the fines in this sphere fluctuate in the range of 200-500 thousand AMD.

In order to make it clear, under EU regulations, breaches of personal data protection can result in a fine of 20 million euros or 4% of the organization’s annual turnover.

b) A more serious public demand for personal data protection in Armenia is yet to be formulated. There is no subsequent request to publish the data on the investigation of the above-mentioned two leaks.

There is a general dissatisfaction that such a thing has happened.

But what should come of it? It is not clear. And why is there no public demand? Because, I think, there is a problem of awareness.

On the one hand, there is no serious approach by the state. The only exception is the Personal Data Protection Agency, which even tries to attract people’s attention, education, etc. through social networks.

However, an agency with a small staff cannot change the weather.

c) The press also has its role in this issue, rather the lack of role, and often also a negative role. In the case of leaks, the media mainly describes the case and quickly forgets about it.

Post-coverage and analysis of the topic are often absent. Due to which public opinion is not formed, which will lead to a more serious perception of the topic, a more general analysis.

There is a more complicated issue that is often talked about, but the issue remains in the air.

That is, the press itself is a domain of personal data leaks.

Such is the case with the data of those who had died from the coronavirus․ A number of news outlets were happy to publish the lists. In our media, you won’t find anything like that: information regarding the underaged, leaks, unprocessed copies, etc., etc. ․․․

Why is that? On the one hand, this is the story of a chicken and an egg. There are no public discussions on these topics, as the press does not reflect the issue properly. And the press does not touch upon the topic, as there is no public interest.

In addition, there are deeper problems. These topics are often unknown to journalists, as there is no proper education. No journalistic traditions have been developed on these issues.

How many editors will think of closing the faces of unrelated people in the photo tied to a sensitive topic, not to mention the faces of minors? Of course, this is just an example, but it describes our general information field in terms of personal data.

Of course, I don’t give the impression that journalists are more to blame. Until we have a normal judicial system, the regulations will remain in the air. Society will not start to turn to the law when it is necessary.

Unless the government develops a clear policy on data protection and is consistent in this matter, there will be constant leaks. Moreover, they will intensify.

So be prepared to cover the next big leak. Let’s hope it won’t be from the location system.

Samvel Martirosyan

The views expressed in the column are those of the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Media.am.

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