This week is Data Privacy Week, an occasion championed by the National Cybersecurity Alliance, the American non-profit, public-private partnership promoting cybersecurity and privacy education and awareness.
A key focus this year is empowering individuals to take back control of their data.
Our new data-driven economy has given us a whole new level of convenience and access to products, information, and interactions - but it has also given businesses access to more and more of our data.
Data Privacy Week strives to ensure that individuals remember the best practices for protecting their personal data and ensuring that it is being used in the right way.
Bermuda has enacted the Personal Information Protection Act 2016 ("PIPA"), which we expect to be fully in force sometime this year.
While PIPA will provide protection and rights regarding individuals' personal data when they engage with Bermuda businesses, it's important to remember that businesses based outside of Bermuda may not be subject to PIPA.
You should ensure that you manage your own personal information and make informed decisions regarding your data and how it is used.
What follows are a few steps you can take, based on suggestions from the National Cybersecurity Alliance, to help you take control of your data and how it is being used.
Many accounts or apps ask for access to your personal information before you even use their services. Sometimes they will even ask for more information than they need to provide their services. Remember that your data is valuable and that it even allows some businesses to offer you their services at little to no cost.
Before sharing your data, take a moment to consider the amount and type of personal information that a business or service is asking for and weigh that against the benefits you may receive in return. In particular, be incredibly wary of apps or services that ask for information that is not required or relevant to their services. Delete unused apps on your devices and regularly update your apps.
Once you decide to use an app or service, check the privacy and security settings and set them to your comfort level. Each device, application or browser you use will have different features to limit how and with whom you share information. You may even consider specialised browsers for maximising your privacy, such as Brave.
While there are many settings to manage, here are a few important ones to focus on first:
- Geolocation data: In order to provide more relevant results, many apps will ask you to share your location data with them. Make sure that you are only sharing this data with apps you trust and that these apps are using your data in a responsible way.
- Contacts data: Many apps allow individuals to automatically sync their existing contacts with their services. When deciding whether to share this data remember that contact data isn't just yours, but also your friend's and family's as well.
- Camera and photo data: Social apps universally ask for access to an individual's photo library and related camera data, which contain reams of private information. Think hard before granting access to this information and also double-check settings in the app to filter which photo files apps have access to.
The National Cybersecurity Alliance has many great free resources for managing your privacy.
Data privacy and data security go hand-in-hand. Fortunately, there are numerous easy-to-implement steps that you can take to shore up your data and general cybersecurity:
- Long, unique passwords: Thanks to automation, a compromised password can easily be tried on other sites to gain access to other accounts. Long, strong, and unique passwords for each account immediately thwart these "easy hacking" efforts and make it harder to crack a password in the first place.
- Password managers: Password managers provide a consolidated and secure hub for passwords. They even generate unique, secure passwords for you, and store them automatically.
- Multi-factor authentication: MFA has been found to block 99.9 per cent of automated attacks when enabled and can ensure that your data is protected, even in the event of a data breach. And the great news is, many organisations are increasingly offering it to individuals as an opt-in - if not mandating it completely - so it is easier than ever to enable.
While managing your data and privacy may feel overwhelming, even little things can make a big difference. So this Data Privacy Week, make it a goal to take control of your data and remember: it's your data and it should be your choice.
First Published in The Royal Gazette, Legally Speaking, January 2022
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.