Five Quick Tips for Improving Your Data Privacy
Last updated: October 5, 2016
January 28 Data Privacy Day, an international effort that’s held annually. At the root of Data Privacy Day is the idea of “Respecting Privacy, Safeguarding Data, and Enabling Trust.” In honor of that mission, we offer you five relatively simple ways to shore up the privacy of personal data.
1. Be Cautious About Social Connections
A Facebook friend request here, a LinkedIn connection there…all pretty harmless, right? Not really. Scammers frequently create fake social media profiles in order to connect with individuals and mine for data. Think about the information a Facebook friend is likely to have access to: names of family members, birth dates, anniversary dates, maiden names, photographs…the list goes on and on. Since users freely share these details with their connections, scammers send out hundreds of friend requests for fake profiles and hit a virtual data goldmine with every acceptance.
The safest rule of thumb for data security? Do not connect with people you don’t know. Period.
2. Stop Thinking ‘It’s Just My Email Address’
I’ve been guilty of this one myself; the old, “Well, it’s only my email address. No big deal.” If anyone else has thought this, you need look no further than the JPMorgan Chase breach in 2014 to know that email addresses were a prime target for a potentially very lucrative reason: follow-up phishing attacks.
Quite frankly, an email slip-up is a phisher’s best-case scenario. An unaware user can quickly put themselves in hot water by clicking a malicious link, downloading an infected file, or filling in a phony form. And because phishing attacks continue to get more sophisticated, it becomes harder and harder to spot the fakes.
Given the proliferation of malicious messages, now is the time to be more selective about sharing your email address.
3. Stop Trading Personal Data for ‘Stuff’
Legitimate and malicious companies often take similar approaches to special offers: They dangle a carrot (a free software download, a promotional item, the promise of a discount code) in exchange for personal information about you. How often do you turn over your address, mobile phone number, birth date, and/or other personal data in the name of getting free stuff? Have you thought about where that data might travel to and how that data might be used down the road? Legitimate company or not, you’re still putting your information out there for someone else to control.
The next time you’re presented with a form like this, ask yourself: Do I really need it? Will I really use it? Do I really trust the person or organization that’s asking for my data?
4. Help Protect Your Friends’ Data as Well as Your Own
There are plenty of apps — mobile and otherwise — that encourage you to connect through social media channels like Facebook and Twitter. Still others open channels of communication between your device and those on your contact lists. Before making those connections, stop and consider: Should I really share my friends’ contact information with this app?
Sometimes, the answer is going to be yes. But if you’ve been on autopilot, do your friends a favor and consider opting out of these requests from more frivolous or questionable sources.
Dig deeper into the privacy-related concerns associated with specific apps at PrivacyGrade.org
5. Get a Better Handle on Privacy Policies and Terms of Service
The legal jargon, elevated language, and daunting length of online privacy policies and terms of service understandably deter the average web user from taking even a cursory glance at this content. But blind acceptance is not doing you or your data any favors.
We can help teach your employees best practices for storing and handling corporate and personal data.