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What is Database Privacy?

By S. Gonzales
Updated May 16, 2024
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When people speak about database privacy, they usually are referring to the protection of information contained within digital databases and of the databases themselves. It can include security issues surrounding the database and the classification of its information. Database privacy is a concept that is important to organizations and private citizens alike. However, organizations have the responsibility to protect clients' information, because their clients entrust them to do so.

The fact that many individuals don't have control over how their information is stored and handled once it is digitally aggregated can be a source of concern. Old database storage systems were physical and had their own database privacy issues. The data storage methods of computers have presented their own unique obstacles. Computer privacy is inherently tied to the idea of database privacy because many companies and organizations now employ some sort of digital recordkeeping.

Sensitive, confidential and critical information is often kept in databases. To protect this information from being accessed by third-parties without clearance, companies and organizations have to be diligent about data protection. Some of their efforts have to center on guarding against threats to application servers, database servers and storage systems.

There are a number of steps that organizations can take to help safeguard databases and the data they hold. Some of these steps include making sure that servers are configured correctly, assigning proper authentication levels to database workers, providing unique authentication credentials for each application, preventing the theft of authentication credentials and protecting the database against software designed to compromise it or the information it contains. Privacy professionals also can secure storage systems against theft involving servers, hard drives, desktops and laptops. Organizations should ensure that storage management interfaces and all database backups, whether on-site or off-site, maintain their integrity.

If attacks on a database occur, it is an organization's responsibility to take defensive measures. This might first entail the immediate classification of data according to importance. Then, encryption methods might be employed to help protect applications and data based on their sensitivity levels.

Of course, the best method of protecting a database's privacy is prevention. One method of database privacy protection might include assessing a database regularly for exploits and signs that it has been compromised. If an organization can detect exploits or indications of database compromising before the threat becomes real and unmanageable, the database might be able to be rectified with little and reversible damage.

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Discussion Comments
By nony — On Jun 01, 2011

@hamje32 - Internet privacy issues remain paramount in the public’s mind, regardless of how good the encryption may be. Users are becoming more comfortable with the shopping and banking online, but still, there’s a sense that you don’t really know who’s watching—someone could be swiping your passwords or user IDs.

I did my taxes online recently and had to think twice. Was this something I really wanted to do? I crossed my fingers and took the plunge. It’s a reputable software company so I assume they stand behind their service when they say it’s secure. Still, I don’t always get the warm and fuzzies when send that personal information online.

By David09 — On May 30, 2011

Privacy issues on the Internet have centered on encryption technology and the privacy of websites that you visit. I don’t know what the current standard is for the highest encryption available but I think it’s something like 128 bit or something like that. That’s hacker proof, believe me.

It used to be that the encryption software was so good the U.S. government had strict regulations against the export of these programs outside the United States, in case foreign governments wanted to use them against us.

By hamje32 — On May 29, 2011

@SkyWhisperer - That’s good advice. Another pointer has to do with encryption. We sell commercial grade software at our workplace and use Access as the back end. Any user can open the Access database and see what’s inside. Of course, for generic information that doesn’t really concern us.

However, we have proprietary information stored in the database that we don’t want anyone looking at, apart from the software interface. For that reason we encrypt that information in Access. You can find some pretty strong encryption algorithms on the Internet that make it possible for you to do this.

By SkyWhisperer — On May 28, 2011

Let’s start with some basics for database privacy. If you use Microsoft Access, you can set up a password for your database. That’s a simple first step, courtesy of Microsoft privacy policy initiatives which they enforce in all of their Office applications. Of course you should write this password somewhere in a safe place, because if you forget it, you won’t be able to get into your database again. There might be ways to hack into it, but I don’t know of any.

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