Understanding APIs Role in Data Privacy

January 28, 2022

Val Dobrushkin Global Security Risk Officer

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Today, the world is more connected than ever before. As a result, the rate at which data is being produced is growing exponentially every year. While many organizations have prioritized managing and securing this data, the topic of data privacy has also come into question particularly given the rise of connected devices and AI surveillance features. Consumers are much more aware of how their personal data is being collected, stored, managed, and shared with any third parties, and many are uncomfortable with the data that companies collect due to unclear data collection practices.

In an effort to give consumers more control over the personal information that is being collected, we’ve seen the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (CCPA). These initiatives have raised the bar for data privacy regulations, however, with the fifth anniversary of GDPR approaching, and the US no closer to a federal legislation of its own, there is still a lot of grey area surrounding data privacy.

During Data Privacy Week, it's important to examine the role APIs play in data privacy. APIs have fundamentally changed how businesses operate — improving productivity, serving as the digital intermediary between the supply chain and the customer and enabling companies to accelerate their transition to the cloud. Securing APIs is a top priority for many organizations in 2022; however their privacy implications deserve closer examination as well. Every application and device connects or communicates with an API making them the cornerstone in the data-sharing machine. Today an increasing number of services provide APIs that give other third parties, such as advertisers and app/website developers, direct or indirect access to data about a service’s users. Companies leverage these insights to better target potential customers with relevant ads; however it raises concerns about how user data is being stored, who can access it and how easy it is to access.

To ensure this data remains private and secure, businesses should implement proper authentication and authorization protocols. Implementing protocols that limit the access that third-party apps can gain from an API can help prevent too many parties from accessing and sharing the data too much. Consumers on their end should, as always, consider what companies might learn about them via the information they provide, both directly and indirectly, and their online activity.

Data privacy and data security are not the same thing, however the phrases are often used interchangeably. To properly protect data and comply with data protection laws, organizations need both data privacy and data security protocols and procedures. This not only builds trust with consumers about how their personal information is being collected, shared and stored but it protects businesses from compliance breaches, regulatory fines and reputational damage.