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Stay in Control of Your Privacy

[Note: This message was originally published in the 2020 | 21st Edition of "Your Future: The Careers Guide for Young Bermudians." A PDF of the article is available for download here.]

Alexander McD White, Privacy Commissioner for Bermuda, provides valuable advice on controlling your online presence.


Some people think that privacy is the same thing as secrecy, trying to hide something. In fact, privacy is about being in control. It means that each individual should have the ability to control how the information about themselves is used.

Think about some of the ways that you use or share data. Do you message with friends or share memes? Do you make silly videos? Do you send people your high score in a video game? Do you share your location to make it easier to meet up?

In all of these situations, to do whatever it is you really wanted to do, you have to work with someone else, not just you or your friend, but a third party--a company. To talk to your friend, you use a messaging app. To share your location, you have to use your phone or device.

Whenever these third parties get involved, it opens what you are doing up to other questions. Could they read what you wrote? Who else could they share your data with? Do they even have to tell you?

The companies’ privacy policies are supposed to answer these questions, but they can be pretty tough to read. Plus, they are often written by lawyers who speak a completely different language--legalese.

The good news is that you have rights.

Bermuda recently passed a new law, called the Personal Information Protection Act (or "PIPA," for short). PIPA creates requirements that companies (and anyone else who uses personal data) have to follow. You will have the ability to find out what data the company has about you, ask them to correct any mistakes you see in the information, and even ask that they stop using your information in certain circumstances.

PIPA also created a new, independent public office to help you with privacy issues--that's me. Or to give it its official name, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner. You can reach out if you have questions about privacy or want to better understand how your data is being used. I would love it if you got in touch, especially because you can help me learn more about what apps everyone is using. Because if you have questions, other people probably do too.

Making sure that people stay in control of their privacy is so important, now and in the future. Privacy helps our democratic society to function by protecting freedoms of assembly and secret ballots. It helps our economies work by helping us trust one another online. And as we all get shown more and more "personalized content," we may be getting completely different information than other people. Privacy will help us make sure we stay in control of our own decisions.

Technology and privacy risks are constantly changing, and it can be tough to stay on top of it all. Try once every day, or once per week, to check out an app's privacy settings. Make sure that whatever you decide to share, you stay in control.

To reach out to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, please visit our Contact Us page.


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