Data Privacy Day shines a light on just how private your data is, and what you can do about it.
Ten years ago, the first Data Privacy Day was held in the US and Canada on January 28. Since then, the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) has commemorated it every year with online privacy awareness efforts aimed at both consumers and businesses. With the recent loss of net neutrality in the United States, this year’s Data Privacy Day takes on greater significance.
What is private and what is not?
In today’s deregulated digital world, it is no longer illegal for your ISP to sell any of the data it has collected on you—without your permission. This data can include the accounts you hold, the sites you visit, the things you buy. There is no protected right to privacy online any longer. Your digital life has become valuable info to the highest bidder, to whom you could be anything from a useful statistic to a prime target.
With every account you have online, you have granted access to a certain amount of your personal data—whatever info you had to enter to sign up, and then any transactions or communications you have with that website. All of that data is only as secure as the website’s own security protocols.
It is safest to proceed as though nothing is private online anymore. Without net neutrality, the largest dollar sign will get to make the rules, and data is the most valuable commodity there is. If you don’t take measures to protect your privacy, you’re an easy target.
How to stay private online
You’re identified by your IP address wherever you go online. It’s like your license plate. The only way to protect your privacy online is to ditch the license plate, and the only way to do that is to use a different car. This is the service a VPN offers. (Download a VPN for your computer)
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) connect you to the internet using one of the VPN’s IP addresses, so nobody sees yours. To a cybercriminal, it could look like you’re based out of New York, when you’re really sitting in your home in Montana using a New York-based IP address from your VPN.
Something to keep in mind, however, is that as soon as you log in to any site with your username, you’re no longer private. You’re then identified by that username and any info you entered to create that username. The general rule with social media and forums where you have an identity is to share as little of your personal information as possible.
How to learn more
There are plenty of events around the world to observe Data Privacy Day, including a jumpstart to the conversation on January 25th when the NCSA hosts a live stream from LinkedIn headquarters in San Francisco. The live stream is slated to feature TED-style talks on the latest issues regarding privacy, safeguarding data, and enabling trust.