Data Privacy Day is an international event dedicated to increasing awareness for everyone, including children, adults, businesses and government.
The privacy day, this year Jan. 28, is coordinated in the U.S. by StaySafeOnline.org, a project of the National Cyber Security Alliance. The alliance’s motto is “Stop. Think. Connect,” which makes a great deal of sense when you break it down. The folks behind this organization are as bullish as anyone about the benefits of connected technology — they just want people to think about what they’re doing to maximize safety, security and privacy.
I’ve written a great deal about privacy, including as co-author of A Parents’ Guide to Student Data Privacy as well as an educator’s guide, but, when it comes to general advice, it’s hard to improve on the recommendations posted on StaySafeOnline.org.
These include a warning that “What you post can last a lifetime,” and why it’s important to “own your online presence” by setting “the privacy and security settings on web services and devices to your comfort level for information sharing.”
The organization also asks people to “be aware of what’s being shared,” not only about yourself, but about others as well. When you’re about to post a picture that includes another person, for example, make sure it’s OK with them, and never reveal private information about others without their consent.
Privacy and security go hand in hand. Using strong passwords, biometrics such as fingerprint or facial recognition and multifactor authentication not only protects your financial data, but your personal information as well. Multifactor authentication, which is now an option on Google, Facebook and many other services, requires an extra layer when logging in from a new device.
For example, when I log in to one of my accounts from a computer or phone I’ve never used, the service might send a text to my phone with a 4-digit number I need to type in before the service will accept my password. It’s like your ATM card, which requires something you have (often your phone) and something you know, like your password. Some sites, like many operated by financial institutions, require you to use another form of authentication the first time you log in from a new device.
There are, of course, many more things to say about privacy, but what I’ve learned from more than 20 years as an internet safety educator is that anything you do to protect yourself is better than nothing, and “low hanging fruit” — taking care of the easy stuff — can greatly reduce your chances of being victimized. It’s like locking your car and keeping valuables out of sight. That doesn’t guarantee that a thief won’t break your window and try to steal your stuff, but it makes it a lot less likely.
If you have kids, make sure they know some basic privacy rules and familiarize yourself with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and other laws and policies that protect students’ privacy. All schools that receive federal funding (most public and some private schools) are required to comply with the privacy act, which sets guidelines on how the schools and the vendors they work with must protect your student’s privacy. You’ll find more about the act and other laws in the free privacy guides I mentioned earlier.
While there are some ways to protect your privacy that are easy to control, there is no question that we are living in an age where information is being collected and potentially shared without you necessarily knowing about it or giving explicit permission each time. I suspect that anyone who’s ever seen an ad for a product that they’ve searched for online has gotten that creepy feeling that someone or something is watching over their shoulder.
There are ways to minimize online tracking, including using your browser’s private or “incognito” mode and stopping Google and other sites from tracking your activities. Anyone with a Google account should visit myaccount.google.com to review your privacy and security settings. Amazon often shows ads on other sites based on what you’ve shopped for but you can stop that at amazon.com/adprefs.
There are also things that we, as citizens, can do to assure that governments and companies are respecting our privacy. I realize that keeping track of proposed laws and policies can be a full-time job, but I recommend that people visit websites of rights organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union, The Electronic Frontier Foundation, Center for Democracy and Technology, Future of Privacy Forum, Consumer Watchdog and Electronic Privacy Information Center. I don’t necessarily agree with every one of these group’s full agenda, but all are worth checking out. My own organization, ConnectSafely.org, has lots of resources on privacy, safety and security.
Published at Thu, 26 Jan 2017 15:03:35 +0000