It is important to periodically stop and reflect on our privacy over the past year, decide what aspects of our life we want to keep private, and identify areas where we may want to increase our privacy.
A quick look at this infographic titled 2011 Data Privacy in Review; the Good, the Bad, and the breached shows it was a bumpy ride for personal data privacy last year. Tens of millions of consumers had personal information exposed by corporate and medical data breaches, and you may have been one of them. Last year also saw the highest volumes of malware and cybercrime in history, and you may have exposed your information if you fell for one of those exploits.
Fortunately, last year also saw some privacy gains. Global spam volumes dropped, several companies strengthened and simplified their data privacy policies, and there was an increase in regulatory agencies monitoring companies and setting privacy guidelines.
Perhaps even more importantly, data privacy is now being discussed broadly by governments, companies, in public conversations and in homes as families realize that a child’s profile now has two meanings, and both meanings may clearly identify them.
The first step in managing your data privacy is determining which information you want to keep private. You’ve heard lots of privacy recommendations – like don’t share your passwords, don’t put embarrassing information or photos online and so on, but only you can decide what pieces of information you actually care about keeping private.
Once you’ve decided what information you want kept private, the next step is taking action to protect that information. This means securing your devices so they don’t get malware , personalizing the privacy settings on your accounts, using strong passwords, and monitoring your identity.
Protecting your information also means knowing what rights websites and services claim over any content you post on their sites – and that means reading the privacy policies you typically ignore.
Facebook’s failure to notify consumers of how they share information went to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for a ruling last year, and the FTC determined that consumers were not being given adequate information.
Now the FTC is conducting ongoing audits of Facebook’s privacy practices and requires Facebook to give consumers clear and prominent notice about sharing their information with other companies, and to get express permission from users before their information can be shared beyond what is included in the privacy settings users have established. Unfortunately, this is just addressing the issues of one company, as consumers you have to consider the practices of every company you interact with online.
This means that unless you actively use privacy settings and read privacy policies, the information you care about protecting may not be protected at all on some websites. To protect your data privacy, avoid sites that require you to share more information than you’re comfortable with, or that share your information with others.
Protecting your privacy also means understanding the impact of rapidly changing new technologies like public data mapping like Facebook’s Timeline, location tracking, and facial recognition tools now available in both Facebook and Google+. Without proactive measures these tools can quickly expose information you may want private.
5 simple steps to increase your Facebook and Google+ privacy:
Privacy laws are struggling to keep pace with technology’s ability to collect and package your information, and with companies’ desire to profit from your information. Fortunately governments around the world are beginning to take clear steps in the right direction.
For example, In the U.S. the FTC is now asking for public comments as it considers the privacy implications of facial recognition technologies; in Europe countries are set to release findings about both Facebook and Google’s privacy settings, whether they have breached European law, and what changes may need to be made by the companies in order to do business in Europe.
As internet users it is important to applaud the dedication government bodies, responsible companies, and organizations have shown towards improving our data privacy. And we need to continue to encourage these groups to defend consumer’s privacy as they work through existing and new aspects of privacy online.
While governments and watchdog organizations are trying to look out for consumers, nothing can replace the due diligence you need to apply. These 4 steps will go a long way towards ensuring you stay in control of your information:
3: Privacy Policies – Jan 2011
4: What you need to know: Facebook, Privacy and Health – June 2011
5: Privacy Policies – Jan 2011
8: Face-ID Tools Pose New Risk