Consumer Data Privacy
People do not understand data privacy. They just don’t. They understand that it exists, they understand they use Google search, they hear of “Russian hackers”, but they have absolutely no idea where they, as owners and consumers of data, fit in. This is actually a vulnerability to exploit in and of itself. Every time a consumer visits a news outlet, they have advertisers trailing their every move. Social media platforms gather data constantly, and before the Cambridge Analytica scandal-no one even realized that their behavior was even tracked, much less manipulated. People who lack knowledge about data privacy essentially cannot make good decisions about how to protect their data, and we can see the same issues with lawmakers, who similarly lack knowledge. The internet is no longer in its infancy, and we are now mainstream, and consumers/citizens are beginning to realize that we need solid protections. So, Again-why is data privacy important? Well, when data that should be kept private gets in the wrong hands…it can be abused. A data breach at a government agency can, for example, put top secret information in the hands of an enemy state. A breach at a corporation can put proprietary data in the hands of a competitor. A hospital can have their data seized by hackers, and held for ransom-compromising safety. In America-we have issues with election security, largely confusing because of people’s lack of knowledge over how tampering even could happen-and by who.
Data Privacy is a Human Right
While we haven’t yet passed legislation, now is a good time to start learning about data privacy, your rights, and how to handle your data in the future. Understanding data privacy can safeguard your own data, but it can also lead to better decision making towards global security-that is actually how big a deal data privacy actually is. There is a reason countries are designating it a human right. Technological advances are happening faster than consumer and lawmakers awareness, and criminals are aware of this. It is costing taxpayers billions, as well as their personal safety and privacy.
Another really interesting aspect of data privacy that has not been addressed is the fact that data and its handling is actually everyone’s responsibility-who knows what, and who divulges what to who. We understand that companies have proprietary information that shouldn’t be shared, but with the rise of social media, everyone has a private/ public life, a digital footprint, and information readily available on them at the click of a mouse. Think about it-you can find your high school sweetheart with a few keystrokes. Anyone can look for you.Anyone. Do you really want that? We are years into the internet existing, with all its challenges and heroism-we have more information at our fingertips than anyone has ever had before, but we are pioneers on using that information, and using that information safely, not just for us, but for our children. Right now, as you read, policy makers are writing legislation on how to handle data, and as usual, there’s a fight about which side will win, even though it actually is a non-partisan issue. We, meaning the US, have had issues with elections using adtech, through social media, and while that brought the issues of data privacy to the forefront, it still has not led to a resolution. Part of this is simply letting people catch up-while the tech sector has long been aware of the coming data privacy crisis, the average person is only just now becoming aware. And while some fear it’s too late, education overall in the data privacy space will lead to better decisions in both the private and government sectors.
How to Protect Yourself
According to Norton, a leading consumer cybersecurity firm, here are way to protect yourself:
- Shred documents.
- Use secure websites.
- Give your Social Security number only when absolutely required
- Create strong, secure passwords using uppercase and lowercase letters, non-sequential numbers, and special characters symbols. You can even find unusual approaches for boosting password strength.
- Use different passwords on every different account. This can help minimize the damage if one of your account passwords is exposed or compromised.
- Make sure your computers and mobile devices are running the latest versions of operating systems and applications.
- Frequently monitor your transactions online and your monthly financial account statements to make sure transactions are accurate.
- Regularly check your credit reports to confirm that identity thieves haven’t opened credit card accounts or loans in your name.
Familiarizing yourself with data privacy best practices, upcoming legislation, and future issues is the first step in protecting your family. As we go further into the issues related to data privacy, everything is much clearer if you understand the basics. America is actually a little bit behind other countries, and consumer demand and insights will actually help lead lawmakers.