We hear all the time that our data is valuable, but it may seem hard to put value to personal information, such as your driver's license, the number of steps your workout app calculates, or health data. Your personal information creates a trail online and tells a story about your habits, preferences, decisions and interests.
No, we may not be able to control data that already lives online or that friends and family post about us, but we are NOT helpless. By adopting a positive and proactive mindset to be more aware of and deliberate in our actions online, we can be selective of who we share our valuable data with. Read on for a few simple tips/hacks to better manage your online data.
PrivCom has joined international entities to support the National Cybersecurity Alliance's Data Privacy Week efforts. In celebration of Data Privacy Week, we would like to share four tips derived from a clever article by the National Cybersecurity Alliance published in December 2022 entitled, "How to be an online snob". We love how the article offers great insight on the value of our data at the big tech companies, and how we can weigh the value to put greater data protection in place.
Here are the four tips to strengthen your privacy defense online as presented in the article:
1. KNOW WHAT YOU CAN’T CONTROL
The truth is you can’t control who has access to every scrap and byte of your data. The IRS, for example, will find out how much money you make. And many online services require some of your data to function – a maps app cannot suggest directions if it doesn’t know where you are located (at least while you are using it). An image-sharing site needs access to your photos.
Understand that there is a tradeoff between convenience and privacy. To use all the features of your devices, apps, and software, you will often have to share more and more data. By understanding this balance, you can make better informed data decisions.
2. CULTIVATE AN ONLINE PRIVACY HABIT
Apps, websites, devices, and software will often seek out more data than you would think is necessary – why does a Solitaire app need to know your location? Why does a social media app need to know the phone numbers of everyone you know? Here is where you can really take charge of your online privacy.
Fortunately, many web browsers, computers, and devices will ask you if you want to share certain types of data with a new app or website. Strike up a habit of paying attention to these requests and thinking about your answers. Here are common types of data you might be asked for:
Your photos and camera
Data about your behavior and use of a service
At this point, think about what you want to share. On mobile devices, you can often decide if you want an app to only have access to this data while using it.
If an app or software program refuses to function unless you share certain data that you don’t think it needs (like the Solitaire app demanding your location), find another app.
Generally, you might feel more secure erring on always limiting how much data you share when asked.
Feeling lost? Don’t worry! Have a look at the National Cybersecurity Alliance database where you can look up your privacy settings on dozens of services, apps, and other websites.
3. CHECK YOUR SETTINGS
Even if an app or software program never asks you for data, you should assume it is still collecting it. Routinely (every month or so) check your privacy settings and ensure everything fits within your comfort level.
You can access app and software permissions through your device’s general settings. Remember, apps will often ask for you to always give them access permissions, but you usually only need to give them permissions for while you are using the app. Here are some default settings you should usually turn off, unless you need it for the app to function and you trust the app.
Camera – off
Microphone – off
Location – off
Sync contacts – off
4. DELETE APPS YOU DON’T USE
Every three months or so, go through your devices and think about each app you have downloaded – we call this an “app audit.”
You might think that the real estate on your phone is limitless, but an app audit isn’t just about decluttering. Many apps will collect and share your device-use data even when you don’t use them; you’re basically giving away your data, and you don’t even like the app! Why should that food delivery app you used once a year ago get access to all your precious data?
If you haven’t used the app in months, delete it from your device. Be ruthless. Remember that you can always download the app again.
The National Cybersecurity Alliance is a non-profit organization that advocates for safe and responsible use of technology, and to educate everyone on the best ways to protect ourselves, our families, and our organizations from cybercrime.
Be sure to share your Data Privacy Champion badge for Data Privacy Week 2023!
Learn more here.