Data Privacy Day Promotes Accountability

Philip BaderCybersecurityLeave a Comment

Data Privacy Day, commemorated each year on January 28, is an important part of ongoing efforts by the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) to promote responsible data privacy practices. This year’s commemoration comes at a time when the global COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically altered the way many of us live and work. And these changes have created new challenges for the way personal information is stored, accessed, and ultimately protected.

“Data Privacy Day’s main objective is to be a yearly call-to-action; one that spurs discussion, reevaluation and awareness about how people can keep themselves and their data safe,” NCSA executive director Kelvin Coleman said in a recent press release. He added that another objective was “to show organizations that accountability, transparency, and a commitment to fair and legitimate data collection practices will ultimately lead to enhanced public trust and better brand reputation.”

Greater Personal and Business Responsibility

NCSA is the nation’s leading nonprofit, public-private partnership promoting cybersecurity and privacy education and awareness. Among the group’s core efforts is Data Privacy Day, and this year the group focused on two key themes.

Consumers were advised to “Own Your Privacy” by following these guidelines:

  • Data Is Money: Email and IP addresses, purchase histories, and locations are inherently valuable to businesses. Consumers should think carefully about the amount of information being solicited and weighing that against potential gains before providing it.
  • Manage Your Apps: Many apps try to get access to your location, your contacts, and your location before allowing access. Avoid apps that require large amounts of personal information. Be sure you can trust the apps you do decide to give access to, and delete any apps that you no longer use or only use infrequently.
  • Pay Attention to Privacy Settings: Carefully review all privacy and security settings. Browsers and applications have unique features. Make sure your current settings for data sharing are appropriate for your security needs.

Businesses were advised to make sure they respected customer privacy by doing the following:

  • Collect and Protect: Data breaches can cause steep financial losses, particularly for data that is heavily regulated. But the loss of reputation and customer confidence can carry an even greater cost. Great care should be taken to protect it.
  • Review Collection Practices: Businesses should assess how they collect, store, and protect customer data to ensure compliance with all relevant privacy laws and regulations that apply to them
  • Adopt a Privacy Framework: Businesses should work to build a culture of privacy in their organizations by adopting a privacy framework, such as the NIST Privacy Framework, to better manage risk and improve data storage and handling practices
  • Boost Consumer Trust: Transparency about how you collect and use personal data can alleviate consumer concerns, as can designing settings that protect user information by default
  • Monitor Partners and Vendors: Make sure that any third party you partner with follows the same guidelines for gathering and storing customer data as your business.

Privacy and the Pandemic

Private health data has always been a target for cybercriminals. Last year saw increased targeting of healthcare providers in data breaches that compromised information on millions of patients. Now there are concerns that the rollout of new vaccines could create new challenges for data privacy.

This week Democrats in the Senate and House announced a new data privacy law, the Public Health Emergency Privacy Act. The bill would restrict the use of personal health data to public health purposes. It would also require tech companies that currently gather health information for pandemic-related reasons to implement new protections, and to delete the information when the pandemic is over.

“Technology has become one of our greatest tools in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic but  we need to build trust with the broader public if we are going to reach its full potential,” said Rep. Suzan DelBene, a co-sponsor of the legislation.

Stronger legislation over how personal data is collected and used is an important step in making businesses more accountable. But it must be accompanied by a greater effort to take responsibility for how and why we share that information. Data Privacy Day offers us a useful reminder that our personal data is immensely valuable and deserves to be protected.

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