Take Control of Your Data During Data Privacy Week 2024

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Data Privacy Week is an annual campaign to spread awareness about data privacy and educate individuals on how to secure their personal information. This year’s theme is “Take Control of Your Data”.

All your online activity generates a trail of data. Websites, apps, and services collect data on your behaviors, interests, and purchases. Sometimes this includes personal data, like your Social Security and driver’s license numbers. It can even include data about your physical self, like health data – think about how a smartwatch records how many steps you take, or maybe tracks your sleep habits.

You can’t control how each byte of data about you and your family is shared and processed, but you are not helpless! In many cases, you can control how you share your data with a few simple steps. Remember, your data is valuable – be selective about who you share it with!

Here are three tips that will help you manage your data privacy:

1. Know the tradeoff between privacy and convenience

When you download a new app, open a new online account, or join a new social media platform, you will often be asked for access to your personal information before you can even use it. This data might include your geographic location, contacts, and photos.

For many businesses, this personal information about you has tremendous value – and you should think about if the service you get in return is worth the data you must hand over, even if the service is free.

Make informed decisions about sharing your data with businesses or services:

  • Is the service, app, or game worth the amount or type of personal data they want in return?
  • Can you control your data privacy and still use the service?
  • Is the data requested even relevant for the app or service (that is, “why does a Solitaire game need to know all my contacts”)?
  • If you haven’t used an app, service, or account in several months, is it worth keeping around knowing that it might be collecting and sharing your data?

2. Adjust settings to your comfort level

For every app, account, or device, check the privacy and security settings. These should be easy to find in a “settings” section and should only take a few moments to change. Set them to your comfort level for personal information sharing. I generally lean on the side of sharing less data, not more.

You don’t have to do this for every account at once! Start with one or two, and make it a habit to adjust settings whenever you download a new app or sign up to a service.

The National Cybersecurity Alliance has in-depth, free resources like the Manage Your Privacy Settings page that helps you check the settings of social media accounts, retail stores, apps, and more.

3. Protect your data

Data privacy and data security go hand-in-hand. Along with managing your data privacy settings, follow some simple cybersecurity tips to keep it safe.

Consider following the Core 4:

  • Create long (at least 16 characters), unique passwords for each account and device. Use a password manager to store each password – maintaining dozens of passwords securely is now easier than ever.
  • Turn on multifactor authentication (MFA) wherever you can – this can help protect your login even if your password is compromised.
  • Turn on automatic device, software, and browser updates, or make sure you install updates as soon as they are available.
  • Identify and report phishing messages – remember, phishing can be done via emails, texts, or direct messages.

You can learn more about Data Privacy Week at the National Cybersecurity Alliance website.

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