Understanding how to protect your personal information online is essential in today’s wired world. Mihaylo ISDS Professor Ofir Turel discusses strategies for staying safe for National Data Privacy Day.
If you are like most college students, you are online most of your waking hours. According to Nielsen’s Total Audience Report, American adults use electronic media on average more than 11 hours per day. Digital media provides unprecedented opportunities for communication, shopping, research and entertainment, but it also raises a multitude of privacy concerns.
“Many users care about their privacy but fail to take proactive steps to maintain it,” says Ofir Turel, professor of information systems and decision sciences.
To increase awareness of the need for online privacy, the U.S. Congress in 2014 designated January 28 as the annual National Data Privacy Day.
“This is a good day to reflect on the level of privacy that you would like to have and how you can achieve it,” Turel says. “Any irresponsible thing you do today will be on Facebook tomorrow and will stay there forever, so you need to be careful.”
Among the steps students can take to retain privacy:
- Think before posting online or even sending an email, since your digital profile will stay with you forever.
- Check your privacy settings on your social networks (such as Facebook or LinkedIn) and Google, as settings and policies are regularly updated. One Consumer Reports study revealed that 13 million U.S. Facebook users did not use the site’s privacy settings, some not even aware of their ability to control their personal information. This opens their updates, intended for friends and acquaintances, to the entire Internet.
- Learn about how your information is being used by checking the privacy policies of websites you use for social networking or shopping. Many organizations permit users to opt-out of information sharing, for example.
- Delete dubious or spam emails or messages, since the links are often unsecure and can compromise your privacy and security. This is one of the most common ways that computer viruses spread, a serious concern considering that 30% of U.S. households are estimated to be impacted by some form of malware.
- Only share financial data on websites that have “HTTPS” designation, which ensures the security of the data you share. This is displayed in the address bar of your browser
- Consider using only a few trustworthy sites for your online activities. It makes it easier to stay abreast of your privacy and security, and it helps simplify your life.
For more on data privacy, visit the National Cyber Security Alliance online.