Personal Information – How To Safeguard Your Data

Today I am going to address the hot topic of ‘How to Safeguard your Personal Information’ I am sure you must have heard of Cambridge Analytica, the political data firm that accessed the private information of more than 50 million Facebook users for purposes that violated Facebook’s rules. This has sparked off a much-needed debate about how our society can protect privacy.

What is personal information?

I guess, we can call any factual or subjective information which allows you to be identified as personal information. It could be your full name, date of birth, address, your religion, your occupation, or the alias you use for your Pinterest account and more. This information in the wrong hands can be used for fraudulent purposes to hack into your bank account, falsely apply for credit cards and loans, defraud other people using your identity. Your personal information can be stolen from discarded paper or digital devices with sensitive information in the garbage, phishing emails, scam phone calls, malware from dodgy sites, or even when using public wi-fi. But personal information can also be harvested through what you do online on a regular basis. If you think about it, we are constantly leaving a digital trail about our personal traits and behaviors through social networking sites, smart home devices and systems, connected fitness devices and other mobile apps, etc. For instance, Google tracks your activities through their search engine, email service, Google Maps, and have thousands of data points about you that machine learning algorithms can crawl through to identify you. Therefore, the possibility and threat of being profiled and monetized by unknown third parties (and by that we mean ad network, data broker or other advertising or monetization-related companies) without our consent has become very real. The time has come for companies to put tighter and enforceable restrictions on data sharing with ‘third parties’ or ‘affiliates’ in order to protect consumers. But even consumers have to pull up their digital bootstraps and lock-down all personal identifiable data on the net.

Here are a few tips on how to do that, never send your banking or tax information through email or text. In fact, if you get any calls from such financial institutions, utility company, or any other party asking for personal information, hang up and report the call immediately.  When it comes to email, be careful not to open any from senders or addresses that you don’t recognize and never send any sensitive information through email. Always look at the links in the emails to confirm they are legitimate URLs before you click on them. Our next tip is to always shred any sensitive documents with your name or account numbers. Dispose old or broken computers, phones or USB drives responsibly and make sure to wipe the device using specialized software designed for this purpose. You can also literally take the hammer to them. Be sure to keep your operating system software and your antivirus software up to date. And use strong passwords that are hard to crack by combining numbers, alphabets, caps and special characters. Use separate passwords for different services and keep changing them frequently. Finally, our last tip is, don’t give out personal information to businesses more than what is truly necessary for completing the transaction with it. Do not provide extraneous information as it can be misused later.

There are new ways to safeguard personal data from being accessed, copied, or tampered with, and it involves blockchain technology. We have talked about this emerging technology last week in our podcast. Many startup companies are already using blockchain applications to register valuable assets, manage personal information, and ensure research data integrity because the technology maintains an anonymous, de-centralized registry, where a transaction is verified only if it follows the rules and information remains immutable once on it.

Hostlabs BlurbsterNow, if that’s my say on personal security!

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