Data Privacy and Protection - It's Everyone's Business

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Unless you’ve been living off the grid—in which case, lucky you—you’ve probably heard of the massive scandal rocking everyone’s favorite social media network on the planet. If you haven’t yet, get the brief here. On the local front, we were rocked by a similar privacy nightmare two years ago, when a website hacked into and and released voter information from the Commission on Elections database. Remember this?

In this digital age when information is power, access to private and personal data can mean the world. Gone are the days when identity theft and credit card fraud were our only concerns with having our private information stolen. These days, as in the case of Facebook where the personal information of millions of subscribers were obtained, the stakes are higher: such size and kind of information can be exploited in countless ways, depending on who has access to them. Among others, such data can sway public opinion, influence markets, and even change election results.

Let’s face it, we are not so private as we were before. With our every move chronicled on our digital devices and posted on our preferred social media accounts for the world to see, it’s so easy for anyone looking to compile a dossier on us. Even the things we do without much thought, such as downloading apps, playing games, taking quizzes, clicking on links, and agreeing to fine-print terms and conditions creates a picture of who we are and leaves information that is highly valuable to businesses, policy-makers, authorities, and yes, criminal overlords.

Still, even in the age of oversharing, we should not stop making an effort to control what information we put out there and whom to grant access to information most personal and sensitive for us. But just how do we do this?

Below are a few ways you can protect and keep your data private:

  1. Check and change your Facebook settings now. 
    If you’re not (yet) keen on joining the #DeleteFacebook trend and you intend to keep your account alive, you definitely have to do this. Go to your Facebook settings and see if your privacy walls are up and updated. They’ve made changes to it in the wake of the privacy scandal. Here’s a user-friendly guideon what to check and what changes to make.

  2. Be mindful of your apps.
    Not only should you choose your apps wisely, also take time to read terms and conditions before you download, and fine-tune your app privacy, default permissions, and other settings so you’re not unwittingly granting people access to information you don’t want to share. Take time to do this for all your existing apps. Also, take an inventory of your phone and computer, and delete the apps (and accounts) you no longer use. As for the apps you want to keep, keep them updated, please. 3) Beyond

  3. Beyond “passwords”, think “passphrases”.
    In terms of passwords, longer is often more secure. Go beyond just one word and think a series of words the next time your formulate a code. Better yet, change all your passwords now. But please don’t write down and store all your passwords in your device or on a post-it stuck to it, okay?

  4. If you can, say no to public WiFi networks. 
    Your personal mobile data is still your best bet in going online. But for days when public WiFi networks are the most viable option, be extra careful about the information you access and share. Consider your every move monitored when taking this route. Exercise the same caution when using Bluetooth.

  5. Avoid clicking on malicious links or emails. 
    Phishing is still—sadly--alive and well, but you don’t have to fall victim to these kinds of messages. Always check and double check links to make sure they’re legit; be wary of emails from people you don’t know or from people or individuals pretending you know them; and don’t be too quick to provide personal information—even the “harmless” ones like your nickname, birthdate, or mother’s name. This also applies to cold calls. When in doubt, don’t click and don’t share.

We’re definitely just scratching the tip of the iceberg here, and there are still countless ways—some more complicated than others, to protect and keep your information private. Let the Facebook privacy scandal and these reminders serve as a wakeup call to think of your safety and security online just as you do in the real world. Your data is important. Let it not fall into the wrong hands.