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Celebrate Data Privacy Day 2014 on January 28

January 28 promises to be the most widely recognized Data Privacy Day since its first observation in 2008.

This, of course, is one effect of the many stories over the past year that has put data privacy in headlines across the world. These stories have reinvigorated old debates, and prompted new questions, about the increasingly complex relationship between individuals, online data they create or is about them, and how data is protected and shared.

The profile of these discussions has been heightened this Data Privacy Day as perhaps never before. But for those who would frame data privacy as the individual-versus-corporations or individual-versus-government, there are more constructive approaches to protecting privacy than adversarial ones. And that’s why the theme of Data Privacy Day is Respecting Privacy, Safeguarding Data and Enabling Trust. It is a call to action for everyone – individuals, governments and organizations – to place a high value on privacy and be good stewards of the data they create, access and use. An October 2013 study by Raytheon reported 70 percent of young adults (18 to 26) had a high concern for their personal information being collected or used in ways they were not aware. The pathway toward addressing those concerns and restoring trust is protecting privacy. Creating a safer, more secure and trusted Internet is a springboard for enabling us to realize the true promise of the Internet.

While we do not often think of it this way, protecting privacy is indeed a shared responsibility. Just as companies and organizations face deserved pressure to protect data from unauthorized breaches, and to be transparent when such breaches occur, individuals have an equally substantial role in respecting privacy. The proliferation of social networks, the vast amounts of digital data that we create, collect and store about ourselves and others confers a responsibility on everyone to respect the privacy of others.

We have a ways to go before that responsibility is fully met. The Raytheon study found more than half of young adults indicated a high concern for being harassed or stalked (57 percent), their social media account being hacked (59 percent), or someone knowing their current location (56 percent). In that light, would all be well served to think about how the use of data and personal information can impact others.

This holistic approach and broad sweeping theme shines on Data Privacy Day. Nearly 200 organizations across North America and Europe have signed on as Data Privacy Day Champions, pledging to engage their communities about responsible data stewardship and privacy practices with online webinars, employee training sessions, public lectures and other events. The collective efforts of companies, nonprofit groups, colleges and universities and community groups will help make individuals more cognizant of privacy considerations and empower them to control their digital footprint. To be sure, privacy is complex – the definition of privacy itself varies widely – but there are finite steps people can take to protect their personal information the best they can. These steps, from the global cybersecurity awareness campaign, STOP. THINK. CONNECT., include:

  • Keep a clean machine. Having the latest security software, web browser, and operating system are the best defenses against viruses, malware, and other online threats.
  • Secure your accounts. Create long, strong and unique passwords and enable multi-factor authentication for online accounts.
  • Own your online presence. Set privacy and security settings on websites and social networks to your comfort level of sharing.
  • Get savvy about Wi-Fi hotspots. If you’re online through an unsecured or unprotected network, be cautious about the sites you visit and the information you release.
  • Disable auto-connect. Check your Wi-Fi and Bluetooth settings to be sure you connect manually to networks you trust. Automatically connecting to Wi-Fi can leave you vulnerable to hackers and others.
  • Think before you app. Understand what information an app accesses on your mobile device. The Raytheon study found less than half (44 percent) of Millenials read the privacy policy of an app before they download it.

When you implement these tips and advice, you are making the Internet safer, more private and secure for all.

Whether you’re sharing these simple precautions with friends and family, learning to confidentially handle sensitive client or customer data at work or attending a panel discussion on how privacy has evolved in an online and connected world, you’re making the protection of privacy and data a greater priority in your life and the lives of others. All of these conversations are appropriate on Data Privacy Day, and we look forward to your participation in keeping these conversations going on January 28 and throughout 2014.

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