So, What is Data Privacy?
Every time we log onto social media, create an account for a new application, or sign into a new device, we put our personal information and privacy at risk. We are constantly filling out forms and giving out private information about ourselves, sometimes without even realizing the real consequences of doing so. You might think there is no harm done by simply filling out our name and email, but the intent behind collecting our information may not be so innocent. We might give away information that can reveal sensitive information such as our location, gender, age, and even aspects of our behavior in the real world.
With so many aspects of our lives intertwined with the internet, we often forget how vulnerable we are. Because of the digital age —which we are all living in— it is important to not only be aware of the risks. But to also have a real understanding of what data privacy is, and how to protect our digital identities.
But without these platforms and applications collecting our information, how would we go about our everyday lives? How would we receive customized services, personalized to our needs? How would we connect with friends or explore music, videos, and movies that are best suited to our tastes?
Protecting our Data Privacy, Doesn’t Mean Giving Up Everything
Protecting data privacy isn’t about terminating our internet usage or ceasing the use of technology. Instead, it is about equipping ourselves with the necessary information we need to use the internet safely.
Understanding data privacy can be challenging. And, there is a lack of transparency with how our information is being handled. You’re not alone in thinking that trying to understand it on your own is often difficult.
Online tracking and the selling of personal data is common. You might be unaware of how much data is being collected about you. And how exactly your data is being used. Privacy policies and the terms & conditions listed on websites often have extremely long and dense language, making it difficult for everyday people to understand.
Our mission at Privatyze is to help simplify and explain the importance of privacy. We’ll walk you through understanding the basics of data privacy, and teach you the necessary steps to take to protect yourself online.
How Can We Define Data Privacy?
To better understand “data privacy,” let’s break down the words and define them.
First, What is Data?
Data is defined as “facts and statistics collected together for reference or analysis,” or “things known or assumed as facts, making the basis of reasoning or calculation.”
And What is Privacy?
Privacy is the freedom from being observed, or interfered with, by others.
So, Our Definition of Data Privacy is:
Our definition of data privacy is the extent to which an individual has control over the use, storage, and access of their information by third parties.
Your personal information (data) such as your name, location, contact information, and more. All of this personal data can be misused if not properly managed through good data-protection habits and practices.
You could become a victim of fraud, defrauding, and harassment by criminals who have gotten ahold of your personal data. The Insurance Information Institute writes about information that the Aight Group has collected. They reported that by the year 2020, 47% (nearly half!) of Americans have already experienced financial identity theft. According to the Insurance Information Institute, individuals reported losses of $3.3 Billion to identity theft or fraud last year. That’s up from $1.8 Billion in 2019.
Personal data could also be shared or sold to advertisers and other third parties without your consent and knowledge. Oftentimes, this leads to you receiving advertisements or marketing from companies that you never signed up for.
With all of the constant surveillance, you may also find yourself feeling that you cannot fully express yourself safely in situations online.
Here’s Some Things You Can Do To Protect Your Data Privacy:
Of course it would be great to have a magic wand that could instantly fix everything about your messy digital footprint and create an impenetrable privacy shield. The reality is that we have to take action ourselves. Here at Privatyze, we’re bringing you all of the tools and resources you need to do so. We’re working tirelessly to make data privacy a reality for every internet user. In fact, we imagine a world where you own your digital identity and data. This means that you get to decide how and when to use it. So don’t forget to sign up for our waitlist to get early access to our Beta.
#1 Set Up a Virtual Private Network
A virtual private network (VPN) allows you to use the internet privately and anonymously. A VPN creates a private network from a public internet connection. A VPN hides your internet protocol (IP) address, which is a unique address that is associated with your devices. Since your IP address is linked to both your device and your internet service provider, everything you do on the internet can be traced to your real, physical location. This means that everyone — from engineers at Google to criminals and hackers, to the marketers at literally any company — all have access to what you do and track it down to you and your exact home address.
A VPN allows you to use an IP address that is not your own. It allows you to use the internet more freely since your activity will be linked with the VPN server’s IP address, rather than your own. A part of a VPN’s function is also encrypting our data. The VPN scrambles data and makes it unreadable while the data is being sent over a network. This prevents others from looking at your internet activity, allowing for more anonymity and freedom when you’re online.
#2 Enable Two-Factor Authentication
Two-factor authentication (2FA), also called two-step verification, is an additional measure of security to your online accounts. It prevents you from accessing your account until you provide a code or acknowledge an app notification. This means that even if another person has your log-in information and password, they will not be able to access your account because they cannot verify the two-factor authentication.
Say for example you’re trying to log into your online banking. You type in your username and your password proceed to click the login button. Two-factor authentication sends a text message to your device with a 6 digit code. The bank’s website will ask you to type in the code and won’t allow you to proceed and view your bank account details until after this step is completed. It’s a good idea to set up two-factor authentication for all of your accounts. But it’s especially important for those accounts that hold your most sensitive, personal information.
#3 Make Use of a Password Manager
Everyone knows the importance of creating strong and unique passwords, but it can seem overwhelming to come up with something long enough to be secure and creative enough to be unique. Plus, it is frustrating to integrate difficult-to-remember symbols, capitalization, and numbers into our passwords, as if remembering a unique password for every service wasn’t difficult enough. Because of all of this hassle, we often reuse passwords or create ones that are convenient to remember.
Instead of this, use a password manager and you’ll never have to remember a password ever again. Okay, well maybe just one. Not only can you store different passwords for each service that you use, but it can also suggest passwords that are complex and random enough to protect your information. You’ll also be able to autofill your username and passwords making it faster, simpler, to log in anywhere you go online, on both your PC and your mobile device.
#4 Blocking Ads, Cookies, and Tracking
We usually think of ad blockers as just a tool to remove distracting ads from the screen when we visit a website. However, ad blockers are also helpful for keeping you safe online and protecting your privacy.
Ad Blockers are capable of preventing advertisers from tracking you across the web. In essence, you don’t see their ads, because they can’t see you.
#5 Keep Firewalls and Anti-Virus Software Up to Date
Having antivirus software is critical because it will block and protect your computer from viruses that can cause damage to your device. The benefits of an antivirus program don’t just stop here — it also offers protection from rootkits, bots, worms, trojan horses, spyware, and other threats.
A good antivirus software program should also have a recovery system, which aids with getting rid of any computer malware that has managed to pass through.
Don’t forget to make sure that each of your devices has a reputable anti-virus installed and remember to keep it up-to-date.
#6 Go Covert
Did you know your webcam can be hacked? The information that is captured can be used against you by hackers and cyber thieves. Webcams can be targeted and used for malicious purposes such as recording sensitive information from your home or workplace. Anything that the camera captures can be recorded and transmitted to a third party. You mand not even realize that the camera has been turned on.
Unfortunately, the best and only real defense against this is to simply cover up the lens on your camera when it’s not in use. The material collected can be used for blackmail, identity theft, or victim harassment.
Cover the cameras on both your PC and phone when you’re not using them. This limits the chances of being recorded against your knowledge.
#6 Marie Kondo Your Apps
Apps are a portal into your device. Old applications that have not been updated in a while may cause security problems. Even when apps aren’t being used, apps may still have access to personal information, such as our names and emails. Deleting old or unused applications from your phone and PC helps to alleviate visual clutter and frees up storage. It also makes your phone more secure. The best rule of thumb is that if you don’t need it, delete it.
#7 Switch to Encrypted & Secure Messaging
Let’s face it, we all text. And with so many messaging apps out there, we need to be careful about the security of these platforms. You’d never let just anybody read through all the conversations on your phone. But the reality is unencrypted messaging apps leave room for anybody at the company to read through any of our private messages. Apps with messaging functionality that are not secure and encrypted could be a huge potential privacy risk.
Hackers can break into your device through vulnerabilities in the applications. Security and encryption are important considerations to take when we message because of how much sensitive information our private messages contain.
End-to-end encryption is a method that messaging apps use where data is encrypted. Only the recipient and the sender of the message are able to decrypt and read messages sent between them. Any messages that are sent are not stored or saved in the servers of the applications.
#8 Know your Digital Rights
It is important to understand data privacy laws, which are laws set in place to regulate the collection, usage, storage, and protection of data.
Some examples are the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a national data protection law set in many different European countries.
Fair Information Practices is another example of this. It outlines a set of rules for data collection and usage. Its guidelines specify data collection, quality, purpose, use, security, transparency, user knowledge of their usage, and accountability for upholding these outlined principles.
In California, there are also two state laws protecting the privacy of consumers. The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and the California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA). The CCPA is intended to enhance privacy rights and consumer protection for California residents. The law gives residents the right to know the type of data that is being collected and how it is being used. It also includes the right to deny their data from being sold and accessed. Residents can also request that businesses delete any information that was collected about them. All without having to fear being discriminated against for exercising their privacy rights.
The CPRA grants additional control over sensitive information. This can include government ID (social security number, passports), geolocation, sexual orientation, race, religion, union membership, finances, communications, genetics, and health. In addition, the CPRA states that consumers can tell companies to not even use or disclose their sensitive information in the first place. It puts limits on data sharing, limits on data retention, and profiling for protecting.