Data Privacy: What It is and Why Should You Care About It

We live in a world where technology is constantly evolving and new ways to collect and use data are being developed every day. It can be hard to keep up with all the changes and understand what they mean for your privacy. This post will explain what data privacy is and why it’s important.  You’ll also learn more about how companies collect and use your personal and the inherent risks of data sharing every time you go online.

 What is Data Privacy

Data privacy is the right for an individual to control what information they share about themselves. For example, companies might collect your personal information (i.e., email address, phone number), store it, access it, use it and share it with other people. Every time you give out your phone number, address, or email address, you are sharing your personal data for someone else to use in some way.

When you’re online, your computer is constantly sending and receiving data. This includes information like your IP address, the type of device you’re using, and what browser you have installed. While this data is necessary for the functioning of websites and online services, it can also be used to track your behavior and interests. Data privacy is the practice of keeping your personal data secret from companies and other third parties. To protect your data privacy, you should know how companies collect and use your data and how you can limit the amount of data you share.

How Companies collect and Use Your Data

The Internet has become an integral part of our everyday lives. It is a place where we can communicate with other people, explore new ideas, and share our thoughts and opinions. It is also a place where we can buy and sell goods, learn about the world, and do many other things. The pandemic has rapidly accelerated the use of online services for both individuals and businesses in terms of how we work, learn, and interact with others.

Online companies collect and use your private data to provide you with a better experience. They collect your personal information and browsing history to help improve their services and target advertisements. However, there are many risks that come with giving these companies, such as Google or Facebook, your personal information. Many of them (most of them, actually) use that data for various purposes, i.e., advertising, research, and even to influence how you vote, without your knowledge or explicit consent.

There are many ways in which online companies can access your private data, such as cookies (not the chocolate chip kind!), your IP address, location data, and other third-party tools that they may use.  While this can be useful and convenient at times, like when you are looking for specific services or products, in many cases the risks associated with many of these data collection practices outweigh the benefits. 

The Risks of Not Protecting Your Data

While giving websites and apps access to your personal data can help you find things faster and do things easier, did you know that personal data might be used against you? You don’t have to be paranoid or a conspiracy theorist, but there’s no denying that when big corporations get their hands on our personal data, bad things can happen to good people – and often do!

There are many ways in which hackers can steal your personal sensitive information. They might break into a company’s computer system and steal all the data that is stored there, or they might try to trick you into giving them some of your personal information by sending you an email that looks like it’s from someone you know, which is known as Phishing. Learn more about how data thieves are phishing for your data and how they reel in unwitting victims.

In September 2017, Equifax announced that 143 million Americans had their data compromised in a data breach. Hackers were able to breach one of the nation’s three major credit reporting firms after Equifax security officials failed to install a software upgrade that had been recommended to keep digital intruders out. The information stolen by the hackers included names, addresses, Social Security numbers, and birthdates. The company was widely criticized for not doing enough to protect the sensitive information of their customers. Equifax also came under fire for not disclosing the breach in a timely manner. We should be aware of the risks that come with having our personal data stolen.

When hackers or other bad actors get your personal information, they can use it to steal your identity and disrupt your life or business. Stolen personal data can be used for all kinds of things like stealing money from bank accounts, applying for loans, opening new credit card accounts, filing fraudulent tax returns, and more.

The good news is that there are ways you can take back control of your digital identity. To start, many states now require businesses to disclose the types of personal information they collect from customers (California being one example) so we’re not completely powerless! You are your own best advocate, however.

5 Tips for Keeping Your Data Private

We all want our lives to be more convenient, but we also need to know that our private information will remain safe from those who would do us harm – whether by stealing our identity or exposing sensitive details about us on the Internet. The good news is there are steps everyone can take today to protect their own privacy online while still enjoying the benefits of technology like social media platforms and the myriad mobile apps that make life easier in so many ways!

1. Don’t overshare. Be smart about the information you share. Don’t give away more personal information than is necessary. The best way to do that is to manage your privacy settings on mobile devices, social media accounts, and apps.

2. Use strong passwords (with a variety of characters) for all of your accounts, and never reuse the same password.  With so many sites and apps requiring logins that you need to remember, the best tool to help protect your logins is a password manager, such as Dashlane. Password managers can create, store, and even autofill secure passwords for everything you need to log into. Add another layer of security by enabling multifactor authentication (MFA) wherever possible, especially on accounts with sensitive information, according to the National Cybersecurity Alliance.

3. Keep all your software and apps updated. Make sure that you have up-to-date antivirus software installed on your devices and that you keep them patched with the latest security updates. Regularly check that web browsers and security software have the latest security patches and updates as well.

4. Think before you click. Hackers use phishing and other social engineering methods to target users. Avoid clicking on suspicious links or opening attachments. If you get an email you weren’t expecting or you’re not sure is from someone you know, always contact the sender directly from a phone number not listed in the email. Never click links in a suspicious email or open attachments. Always err on the side of caution and go to verified websites directly.

5. The best defense is the best offense.  Stay informed by keeping track of the latest cyber threats and how they are targeting people like you. If your data is stolen or compromised, act fast! Change your passwords, monitor your credit report closely for any suspicious activity, and reach out to the credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit file. That way, if the thief tries to open up new accounts in your name, they won’t be able to.

With the rise in technology and online use, our personal information is increasingly being shared every day. It’s more essential than ever to ensure that you are protecting your data and to understand what happens to it when you share it with someone else. Always being mindful of what you share online and knowing how to secure your devices and accounts can safeguard your digital footprint and protect you and your business from emerging risks.

Data Privacy Week is January 24-28, 2022. Sponsored by the National Cybersecurity Alliance, data privacy week helps spread awareness about online privacy and educates individuals on how to manage their personal information and keep it secure. It also encourages businesses to respect data and be more transparent about how they collect and use customer data.  Whether you’re an individual who wants to learn more about how to protect your data or a business that wants to ensure you are taking the appropriate steps to protect your customers’ data, learn more at https://staysafeonline.org/data-privacy-week/.

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