How Private is Your Data?

Jan 28, 2013

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Today is Data Privacy Day, a day lead by the National Cyber Security Alliance to educate consumers about their data privacy rights. They hope to create discussion about online privacy that will lead to change.

Data privacy is an important topic. A recent survey by Microsoft found that just four out of ten respondents said that they “totally” or “mostly” understood how to protect their online privacy. It’s no secret that websites and apps are gathering as much personal information about their users as possible, and 45% are saying that they feel they have little to no control over that information.

Some people appear to be learning, however. A third of respondents said that they pay attention to “companies’ privacy reputations, track records, and policies when choosing which websites and services to use.” The FTC is cracking down on what information websites and apps can gather on children, but there are no such rules for anyone 13 and up. Some websites and apps ask for far more information than they need to provide their services to you, and they are likely just passing that information along to third-party ad developers and data collectors.

Another aspect of online privacy is controlling who can access the information you put into online services such as email providers. Right now, lawmakers in Congress are trying to pass a bill that will further protect everyone’s online communication privacy rights. As it now stands, the government has found loopholes in the current law that let them search any emails stored online for more than 180 days because they technically count as abandoned. The law seeks to close that loophole, and better internet users’ privacy in general.

With more and more of the world conducting their private affairs online, online privacy is an issue that we can’t afford to ignore. Consumers need to educate themselves on their current rights, and if they find these rights lacking, they need to do something to change that.