The day is an extension of Data Protection Day in Europe, which commemorates the signing of Convention 108 on January 28, 1981. This was the first international treaty dealing with data privacy in the world, and sought to protect the privacy rights of individuals in a world in which data was increasingly being transmitted across borders.
Today, the National Cyber Security Alliance — a non-profit, public-private partnership — takes the lead role in observing Data Privacy Day. This will include a number of different programs and information sessions dedicated to informing consumers about their risks and ways in which they can respond to privacy breaches and identity theft.
How to keep a strong grip on your privacy
Whether we realize it or not, every action we take is increasingly being recorded in a digital form. This is the result of our growing reliance on big data. Your medical records, which were previously kept on paper, are now being digitized. Every time you make a purchase, information about your general demographic is stored so that advertisers can know how to better target you in the future. And many of us have a significant presence on social media, which makes our personal information much more public than it otherwise would be.
The growing use of data is not necessarily a bad thing. Electronic records improve the efficiency of medical care. Targeted advertisements really do benefit retailers who are seeking a particular customer. And social media has made it easier than ever for users to connect to the people around them — as well as those who live many miles away. But there are still serious risks. Any breach has the potential to release personal information that thieves could then use to commit identity theft.
What can be done? Here are a few ways to improve security on your personal computers and mobile devices on Data Privacy Day:
- Secure your smartphone.If you own a smartphone, you probably keep a plethora of personal data on it, including financial information. The last thing you want is for anything to be stolen, but all it takes is one brief moment of inattention for a stranger to grab your phone. At the very least, you need to make sure it is secured with a password or passcode. As long as a thief cannot access the information on your device, there are limits to how they can use it against you.
- Protect online accounts with two-step verification. Most of the online accounts you maintain are likely protected by a password — and nothing else. As many people have had the misfortune of realizing, the most common passwords are often easy to guess and far from secure. Luckily, an increasing number of online services off two-step verification. In addition to requiring a password, they also force users to type in a pincode that is sent to their mobile device via SMS. By limiting account access to the holder of that device, two-step verification significantly reduces the risk of unauthorized logins.
- Pay attention to your privacy settings. If you aren’t comfortable with the way your favorite websites track your browsing activity, you may want to limit your browsing through private windows. If you use popular social media websites like Facebook, you may wish to adjust your privacy settings to control what information Facebook has access to, and what different websites and apps will be allowed to post to your account.
Prevention measures aren’t always enough to stop identity theft. It’s also important to prepare yourself to respond to fraud risks, and part of that means signing up for a credit monitoring service. Credit monitoring can be one of the best tools in detecting identity theft at your disposal. Some services also offer identity and public record monitoring. There are many companies that provide tools and services to help you protect what’s yours, it’s just a matter of doing your homework and investing in you and your family’s peace of mind.