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History of Data Privacy Day

Data Privacy Day, which will be celebrated in January 2012 for the fifth year, provides an excellent opportunity for universities to raise awareness and promote education about privacy among students, faculties, and administrators. (Several ideas are provided below, but you can also learn more about the free webinars being planned for January 2012.)

In January, the United States, Canada, and more than 40 countries will celebrate Data Privacy Day 2012. Designed to raise awareness about privacy as a right and as a responsibility in our digitally dependent and highly networked world, Data Privacy Day highlights the actions that corporations, governments, nonprofits, educators and individuals can take to protect the privacy of personal information. In addition, the Data Privacy Day initiative provides educational resources and materials for young people, parents, educators, consumers and businesses year round. 

What does all this mean for college campuses?

College students are a target audience for Data Privacy Day awareness initiatives. Socializing, studying and shopping online and via mobile devices, college students share personal information by the hour. In addition, college students should be aware of the way the digital footprints they create may affect their futures.

Currently, Facebook has over 800 million users, and more than 350 million people are actively using Facebook through their mobile devices. LinkedIn has over 115 million users, more than half of which are based outside the United States. Google+, introduced in 2011 and made publicly available in the summer, had an estimated 43 million users as of October 2011. Over 70% of online teens and young adults use social networking sites. While young adults are often proficient and innovative users of new technologies, they are not always aware of the privacy risks associated with their use of these technologies. In a recent study conducted by a computer scientist at Columbia University, for example, 100% of the survey participants were inadvertently sharing information they did not intend to share. As a Data Privacy Day initiative, educate your students about using privacy settings on popular social networking services to give them more control over the information they share.

A study commissioned by Microsoft for Data Privacy Day 2010 showed that 79% of recruiters and hiring managers in the United States reviewed information posted to social networking sites and blogs to screen job candidates, and that 70% had rejected an applicant based on information they found. In contrast, 85% of job applicants interviewed said they did not believe their online reputation mattered to potential employers. Given the pervasive and permanent nature of our digital footprints, it is extremely important that college students actively manage their online reputations and use discretion and good judgment regarding the personal details and content they share online. Letting students know about the ways in which their digital footprints may affect their ability to obtain employment is another excellent contribution to the Data Privacy Day awareness effort.

Privacy issues pervade university life, and administrators, staff, and professors must be informed about the steps they can take to protect information privacy. FERPA, social media and social networking, Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance, student health services, data security programs, e-mail networks, human resources’ responsibility for employee information, and educators’ incorporation of information sharing technologies into the classroom all present privacy issues for universities. You can use Data Privacy Day as an opportunity to provide privacy training for employees of the university, and to establish communication between your privacy office and others who need to connect and collaborate with your office on privacy issues.

The Data Privacy Day initiative is run by the National Cyber Security Alliance. NCSA welcomes all universities that would like to participate to contact us for more information. If you would like additional information about Data Privacy Day, please direct inquiries to Jolynn Dellinger. If you have questions regarding the National Cyber Security Alliance, please contact Aimee Larsen Kirkpatrick.

The National Cyber Security Alliance

The National Cyber Security Alliance, a non-profit organization. Through collaboration with the government, corporate, non-profit and academic sectors, the mission of the NCSA is to empower a digital citizenry to use the Internet securely and safely protecting themselves and the technology they use and the digital assets we all share. NCSA works to create a culture of cyber security and safety through education and awareness activities. NCSA board members include: ADP, AT&T, Bank of America, Cisco Systems, EMC Corporation, ESET, Facebook, General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems, Google, Intel, Lockheed Martin Information Systems & Global Services, McAfee, Microsoft, PayPal, Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), Symantec, Verizon and Visa. Visit for more information.