Awareness of data safety shouldn't just be daylong

January 22, 2012 12:00 am

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With the proliferation of social networking services, it sometimes seems as if privacy is a thing of the past. Companies such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are making social sharing the norm, and breaking down our sense of the line between private and public information. With the many ways in which we now shared data online, it almost seems as if nobody's thinking about protecting our information. But that's not true.

Saturday, Jan. 28 has been named Data Privacy Day, and the intention of an organization called iKeepSafe is to help celebrate privacy on that day in more than 40 countries worldwide.

Never heard of Data Privacy Day? Frankly, neither did I, although the day has been celebrated since 2007 in Europe and since 2008 in the U.S. and Canada. If you look at www.staysafeonline.org, you'll even find an impressive list of sponsors, including Intel, eBay, AT&T and others. Ironically, the home page has links to Facebook and Twitter although neither company is listed as a sponsor.

That irony might teach us something about why this is such a difficult problem to deal with, because even the companies that are pushing privacy are looking to spread the word via social networks. The need and desire to spread the word or share information with others is strong, and it permeates much of what we do at home and at work. If we don't share, we often feel left out or unable to perform important tasks for our companies.

According to iKeepSafe, we're at a crossroads in the history of technology and personal data privacy. IKeepSafe's president, Marsali Hancock, suggests that it's more than just computers that need to be protected; it's all connected devices, such as smartphones.

That would also explain why MasterCard worldwide and Intuit are partners in Data Privacy Day.

Companies and individuals rely on those companies to safeguard financial data including credit cards and bank account information.

IKeepSafe, of course, has suggestions for individuals, such as installing effective security software on every Internet-connected device including smartphones, and to stop clicking on unknown links. It also suggests to companies how they can help abate the privacy crisis, including making their privacy features and policies easy to find and understand, and letting users know if there are potential safety or privacy risks when they upgrade their online experiences.

Initiatives like Data Privacy Day are important, because they raise the level of awareness that your privacy is at risk and that there are things that you can do about it, even as you take advantage of our increasingly social society online.

Your kids won't do it, because they don't really understand the importance of privacy or how to protect. Frankly, even if they did understand, most of them don't care.

So it's up to you. Using the tools and resources at www.staysafeonline.org is a good first step. Continued vigilance is the next. And spreading the gospel about privacy is the one that will help you keep the epidemic from spreading. Data Privacy Day should be every day.

Follow David Radin on Twitter @dradin or learn more at www.megabyteminute.com .
First Published 2012-02-09 19:59:10
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