January 28 is Data Privacy Day

What is Data Privacy Day?

There is a day for everything.  Did you know that January 22 is National Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day?  Yeah, most are pretty meaningless, but not today. Data Privacy Day is actually an international effort that stems back to 1981 with the signing of the Convention 108, the first legally binding international treaty dealing with privacy and data protection. The US Congress even adopted a non-binding resolution in 2014 expressing the support for a National Data Privacy Day. Today we should all take a step back and look at how the information we share on the interwebs is collected and shared.

Below are a few quick and simple steps we all should do help keep our information private.

Update your privacy settings.

One of the most important things you can do is update your privacy settings on all the apps you use. When you install an app on your phone or sign up for an account online, you are prompted with a terms of use clause.  I’m willing to bet, that like me, you don’t read these.  Most of the default settings on a site collect your personal information so it can be used to make the app or service work better for you, AND so they can resell this data to someone else usually in the context of focused advertising. Have you ever googled a new appliance for your home and noticed ads for that same thing popping up on Facebook or some other app?  This is one example of companies sharing the information they collect and then sell to other companies to better market their services to you.

StaySafeOnline has gathered information on where to update your privacy settings for most of the major online services and apps.  You can view this list here.

Use Tracker Blockers

Install browser extensions like Ghostery or Privacy Badger, which count and block online tools that track your behavior while you are surfing the web.

Freeze Your Credit

If you’re concerned about identity theft, data breaches, or someone gaining access to your credit report without your permission, you might consider placing a credit freeze on your report. The major credit report companies are required to freeze your credit for free, which can keep you safer from identify theft.

Ask Why/Just Say No

I know I get asked for my phone number when checking out at Lowes, Macy’s, heck you name the store, even when paying in cash. I use to give some bogus phone numbers, but now I just say NO. When someone asks for your phone number or the last four digits of your Social Security number, ask why they need it.  If they don’t have an answer, just say no.

Setup a Burner Email Address

There are numerous sites that ask for an email address when you are purchasing something or signing up to use a free service.  Nothing is free, your data is currency.  If you don’t want to get bombarded with email in your main inbox, set up a free email account with Hotmail, Yahoo, or another service and use this email address when you need to enter one while online.