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As the line between our offline and online lives continues to blur, Data Privacy Day on January 28 is the little nudge we need at the beginning of each new year to make safeguarding our personal information a priority. Although we live in an increasingly digital world, most of us give little thought to data privacy until after our personal data has been compromised. Our increased reliance on digital technologies to manage every facet of life necessitates the need to rethink what we share about ourselves, when and where we share it, and who we are sharing it with. Data Privacy Day is part of the global online safety, security, and privacy campaign called ‘STOP. THINK. CONNECT.’, — an initiative of the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA).
History of Data Privacy Day
The need for data privacy is nothing new or unique to the digital age. Our personal information has been at risk for many decades. Personal data has been collected, manipulated, and shared or sold for decades, then manipulated further for profit by banking institutions, product manufacturers, political parties, nonprofit organizations, ad agencies, polling groups, airlines, grocery stores, credit agencies, and many others. Digital technologies have made the collection of personal data easier, both legally and illegally. And with 4.66 billion people in the world who are active internet users, there is an incalculable amount of unsecured data waiting to be pilfered.
Data privacy is rarely at the top of anyone’s daily to-do list. It was probably not on your mind when you logged onto your computer, laptop, or mobile phone this morning to check your email, catch the news, check stock prices, and all the other ways we routinely use technology to manage our home- and business affairs. Most of us are guilty of being complacent when it comes to safeguarding our most personal information from unseen but prying eyes. In fact, many people do not understand the difference between data security and data privacy, which may be the reason why so many of us are slack about data privacy.
Data privacy is not the same thing as data security, although the two are intimately connected and intertwined. The analogy we like best that helps understand the difference describes data security like putting bars on windows to make it difficult for someone to burglarize your home. Data privacy is more like pulling down the window shades so no one can look inside to see what you are wearing, who lives with you, what you are cooking for dinner tonight, or what movie you are watching.
As end-users on the technology spectrum, few among us pay attention to data privacy beyond knowing not to share our passwords with anyone. We trust software and data services providers to be the guardians of the personal data they collect and require from us in exchange for the right to use their products and services. But the personal information collected by companies today is not regarded as private by default, with few exceptions.
The unpleasant truth is that most people who have access to our personal data do not need it. These digital strangers with legitimate access to our personal data are the very people we should be preventing from accessing our personal information because they do not need it. Data Privacy Day is an important wake-up call for anyone who is ‘on the grid,’ meaning, they use any type of digital device for any reason, and thinks having spam software and firewalls are keeping their data safe.
Data Privacy Day reminds us to treat personal information like money. It has value and we need to protect it as if our lives depended on it because sometimes they do.
Data Privacy Day timeline
Convention 108 for the protection of individuals’ personal data is signed.
Initiated by The Council of Europe, the first Data Protection Day is observed.
Initiated by The Council of Europe, the first Data Protection Day is observed.
Observed as an extension of European Data Protection Day in Europe, Data Privacy Day makes its way to the U.S.
The United States House of Representatives recognizes National Data Privacy Day.
Senate Resolution 33 is adopted by Congress, declaring January 28 as National Data Privacy Day.
Data Privacy Day FAQs
Why is data privacy important?
Your personal information has value. In the hands of cybercriminals, your stolen data will be sold on the ‘dark internet’ repeatedly, for years, to hackers and spammers who, at best, will annoy you with relentless spam, and at worst, gain access to personal identifiers like your social security number, and use it to drain bank accounts, investment accounts, purchase homes and cars, or take fabulous cruise vacations — all charged to YOU.
Who is responsible for data privacy?
Today, there is no consensus on who is responsible for data privacy. While some agree that protecting personal data is the responsibility of individuals, others think businesses and governments are in control of this complex issue.
What is the data privacy scandal?
The Facebook data privacy scandal involved the collection of private data from “up to 87 million people.”
How to Celebrate Data Privacy Day
Commit to protecting the privacy of your data
First and foremost, if you are not already diligently safeguarding your personal information, your mission, today, should you decide to accept it — and you should, is to begin taking data privacy seriously. Make the commitment today to learn one new thing each day about data privacy and then take the steps necessary to ensure the privacy of your personal information.
Learn about the “Internet of Things”
Take time today to research how all of the digital devices connected to your personal “Internet of Things'' interconnect with each other and with the vast digital universe. This includes your smartphone, modems, TVs, cars, refrigerators, home heating and air conditioning systems, smoke alarms, baby monitors, and home alarm systems... You get the idea. All of these digital devices make life easier to synchronize on your personal ‘internet of me.’ Take the necessary steps today to prevent the personal data necessary to synchronize all of these devices from being shared with those who may want your data, but who do not need your data.
Share your expertise with “seasoned” citizens
If you are digitally-savvy and enjoy teaching others, please volunteer to teach a class or give a seminar demonstrating data privacy specifically for older adults. Senior citizens learn technology best if they are shown how, not told how. A surprising number of ‘baby boomers’, those born between 1946 and 1964, and most of the earlier WWII generation had little or no exposure to computers before retiring. Seniors are a prime target of data thieves because of their lack of basic knowledge of data privacy best practices. Sharing your expertise with these grateful citizens will help prevent this vulnerable community from becoming victims of cyber-criminals.
Five Ways To Protect Your Data Privacy
Tend to your operating systems and software
Make sure your computer and mobile devices are running the latest version of operating systems and software.
Update your privacy preferences
Regularly review and update your web browser’s privacy preferences, delete any cookies, and clear the cache.
Reset your home network router
Routers that enable wireless devices to connect to your home internet service are vulnerable to hacking, too — if you rent a router from your internet provider, call them to see if you are eligible for a new one or for help to update your current router’s settings.
Update account passwords
Create different passwords for each of your online accounts — if you have a lot of accounts and find it challenging to keep track of all those different passwords, consider subscribing to a password generator tool that generates random passwords for each one of your accounts but requires you to only remember ONE.
Shred the evidence
Shred hard (paper) copies of invoices, financial records, tax documents, legal papers, magazine labels, envelopes, purchase receipts — any paper that has any information about you, because not all data thieves work on the internet.
Why Data Privacy Day is Important
It reminds us to be vigilant
Your complacency is a data hacker’s best friend. We repeat: Your complacency is a data hacker’s best friend.
Prevents the possibility of identity theft
Perhaps the most devastating result of being complacent about safeguarding your personal data is identity theft. By the time you suspect someone else has assumed your identity, they have probably already done a great deal of damage to your name and ruined your credit. Identity thieves are hard to catch and leave a devastating mess behind that will be your responsibility, at your expense to repair. And it can take a lifetime to repair the damage.
It reminds us we are all prime targets
Even if you do not own assets like real estate or have a big investment account, you are still a prime target for identity thieves. We are all prime targets. Data pirates do not discriminate. They steal from everyone and anyone, young or old.
Data Privacy Day dates