Whether you have heard too much or too little about data privacy and data security, we urge you to read about them again and again until you grow eager to learn how to guard yourself against online privacy violations and use your data responsibly to secure it against malicious attacks. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, or even more.
Let’s lay down the foundations: in the context of data, what is the difference between privacy and security? We take it directly from the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP):
“Data privacy is focused on the use and governance of personal data—things like putting policies in place to ensure that consumers’ personal information is being collected, shared and used in appropriate ways. Security focuses more on protecting data from malicious attacks and the exploitation of stolen data for profit.”
Data privacy is concerned with personal rights and personal control of your data: Who is allowed to share which part of your data and with whom. Data security is how you manage to keep your data safe from intruders, manipulators, and thieves.
Online, we are sharing tons of information for various reasons, sometimes just because we pay in data in return for the service we want, but we are by no means authorizing the release of this information to an endless chain of exploiters. The past years, however, reveal that our data has turned into the new currency and the lucrative business in the world of marketing, sales, and beyond. Anywhere you go today, physically or virtually, someone is hankering to get your mobile number, monitor the products that you choose, and based on the information that they glean, they size you up to deduce your standards and habits of living. Last time you checked your SMS folder, how many spam messages did you find? It is spiraling out of control, online and offline.
But is it only for this pestering that we want data privacy maintained? No, this is just the beginning. Data is not solely disclosed that marketing campaigns may target you with precision and charm the cash out of your pocket. In another country, personal data was exploited far more aggressively with serious consequences. The keywords in our anecdote are personal data, Facebook, and Cambridge Analytica (a voters-profiling firm). Let’s arrange the pieces of this puzzle: Facebook granted Cambridge Analytica access to private data on 10s of millions of American Facebook users, which the latter misused to sway voting decisions. Cambridge Analytica already had the tools that would map out the personalities of American voters to detect their behavior and influence their decisions. What it lacked was the data—exactly what Facebook has plenty of. The Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal is but one example, a glaring one though, of how intricate and outrageous privacy breaches could get.
If you think that such international political scandals don’t concern you, let’s go back home. Our smart phones are endowed with amazing potentials enabled by the myriad of apps that come built in or that we download by choice. GPRS and navigation apps have empowered entire businesses—think of location-dependent apps that drive you around the city or deliver the city to your doorsteps. Your phone is tracking you, and your kids too, but who is—or are—tracking your phones, and for what purposes? While we appreciate the benefits of these services, we hope never to try its dark side. The internet is not exactly your all-familiar and amicable neighborhood. We detest paranoid thinking, but now that we share massive accurate amounts of information about ourselves and our little ones, a grain of suspicion coupled with lots of questioning the motives is on our side. How many apps vie for your location? To which of them is your location a necessity? We don’t wish to support stalking behavior, let alone “real” stalkers.
Is anyone else trying to retrieve your personal data without your consent other than advertisers, rogue politicians and consumer companies? Yes, cybercriminals who devise crafty scams to rob you of your personal information. Think in terms of personally identifiable information (PII): your name, address, social security number, phone number, email, or any piece of information that can be used to identify who you are, and, unfortunately, open the door to identity theft. Suffices or shall we mention the increasing number of apps that spy on your messaging apps? Even your communication is the target of eavesdropping.
It is not only individuals who could be liable to such horrors. Security threats incur businesses dramatic losses, and worse, legal hazards. Ransomware, for instance, is plaguing the healthcare sectors in the critical times of the coronavirus pandemic. If you are wondering what ransomware is, trust your sense of language: yes, a malware that holds files or data hostage until a ransom is paid. Of course data privacy is of paramount importance in the healthcare sector, and any violation carries catastrophic consequences. Even if it is not healthcare, what would it feel like to know that all your customers’ or employees’ data is in the wrong hands?
Data privacy and security are not to be taken lightly; much is at stake. Can we protect ourselves and your affiliates? There are things that you can do, that you are responsible to do:
· Remember your parents’ first lesson? Don’t trust strangers!
· Create strong passwords for your accounts and keep them private.
· Create a unique password for each account.
· Be cautious with public Wi-Fis: don’t log in your sensitive information on a public Wi-Fi.
· Don’t open files from unknown sources or click suspicious links and “too-good-to-be-true” freebies.
· Choose secure encrypted messaging apps that block phishing and scam.
· Turn off location sharing unless you have to do otherwise. Don’t share each step you take online.
· Back up your data regularly; secure it against loss.
The world is changing; stay safe online and offline.