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Data Privacy Day Raises Awareness About the Importance of Internet Security

Data Privacy Day Raises Awareness About the Importance of Internet Security


Data PrivacyAs most of you know (or maybe you don’t) I’m a very private person. And this privacy extends to my digital life, how I conduct myself online, and especially the companies and organizations I give my private information to. This information, of course, includes your social security number, credit card and bank account numbers and important passwords. It’s a no-brainer that anyone who cares about their credit and their identity should protect this information as if their life depends on it (because it does)!

But what about all the other information many of us give away every day without giving it a second thought? Things like where we like to shop, what we buy, even where we keep our money. We live in the era of “big data” and this means that companies are harvesting this kind of information constantly.

Big Data, Retargeting and Your Privacy

I started writing this post intending to talk about Data Privacy Day, which took place on January 28. Established by the National Cyber Security Alliance, this international initiative is designed to empower and educate people to protect their privacy and control their digital footprint. But in order to do so effectively, I feel it’s important to talk about WHY we should be protecting our privacy and exactly what who we’re protecting ourselves from.

Big data has a lot of different meanings, and it’s mostly used to describe massive terabytes of information that companies can use in a variety of ways. When we talking about internet marketing, big data refers to the information that tracks where we go online and what we’re doing there.

Using “big data” algorithms, companies can engage in a practice called “retargeting.” Retargeting or “remarketing” is a lot easier to describe with a story.

Let’s say I’m shopping for a new car. I’m thinking of the Ford Escape, so, as a savvy Web user, my first stop is the Ford website, where I compare the prices and features in different trim packages. My mind hasn’t yet been made up. I haven’t given Ford any of the information they would use to place me in their lead funnel. I just close the page and log in to Facebook.

On the right side of my screen, there’s an ad for a Ford Escape. Through the cookies set up my browser, Ford was able to detect that I had visited their site looking for information. This is a very basic example of retargeting. It can get much more complex.

Car manufacturers, retailers and organizations aren’t the only ones itching to get their hands on our data. There’s also credit agencies, the government, the list goes on and on. Why is this data so valuable?

If it’s not being collected by someone overtly looking to sell us something, it’s being collected by organizations looking to sell our data to other organizations that want to sell us something. Basically, people are making money off our private information.

Protecting Your Privacy

So what’s the answer? Well, you could stop researching or shopping for anything online, but how convenient is that? If I posted on Facebook that I was considering a Ford and asked friends for opinions, ads would still appear. I’m sure I’m being entered into several databases just by writing this blog post.

Raising Awareness

Ironically, even as we try to protect our privacy, we also want to raise awareness about the importance of data privacy. Some of you may have noticed that I changed my Facebook and Twitter profile pictures to a silhouette through the month of January in support of data privacy. Several people asked me about it. Although a small step, this started the education process to let people know about the importance of data privacy and the little things they can do every day to make a difference in the amount of data they share with marketers, specifically, and the world as a whole.

Several Steps to Protect Your Privacy

Data privacy actually has several components, and many steps. Disabling cookies in your browser can help stop companies and organizations from tracking your every move for retargeting purposes.

Setting secure passwords can help protect your privacy and prevent a security breach.

In general, just being cautious about who you provide with your personal information can go a long way toward stopping identity theft. For instance, your social security number should never be used as an identifier. If a company insists on it, ask if you can use a random number, or take your business elsewhere.

Can You Be “Invisible?”

Several years ago, I read a book titled ““How to Be Invisible.” In today’s age of technology, being completely invisible gets more and more difficult. But following some of the steps in this book can make a big difference in your level of data theft risk.

Additionally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t recommend taking a course in internet security and data privacy.  To be notified when the courses are going to be available here (hint: soon!), sign up for my Course Notification list.