Data Protection Day 2019 – Are you #PrivacyAware?

On Monday, 28 January 2019, we will celebrate Data Protection Day – also called Data Privacy Day on the other side of the Atlantic – a worldwide event aiming to spread awareness about privacy and to educate citizens on how to secure their personal information.

The date was chosen in remembrance of the signing of the Council of Europe's data protection convention, "Convention 108", on 28 January 1981. This document, which is the only legally binding international treaty in this field, has been signed by more than 50 countries around the world. It is currently in the process of being updated due to the new challenges arising from the spread of today's information and communication technologies (ICT). The event is coordinated by the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA).

What are the risks associated with poor data protection?

In 2018, data breaches compromised the personal information of millions of people around the world, on Google, Quora, MyFitnessPal, Facebook, among other online platforms. Besides "classic" data breaches, the latter has been embroiled in a scandal of a new kind: the infamous Cambridge Analytica affair, in which the personal data of 87 million users were stolen for political purposes.

Yet, these data breaches could be easily prevented if more users were aware of the risks related to the protection of their personal data, of their rights in this respect and of the simple cyber hygiene steps they can take to better protect their data.

Indeed, too many people are still misinformed of the consequences the use of a digital device entails in terms of data collection and sharing. Very few people know how to react if they are targeted by a data breach, or if they can get support, when in fact, privacy and data protection are two rights enshrined in the EU Treaties and in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Protect your family's personal data!

In the age of big data, personal information should be treated like money: valued and protected. Hence the slogan adopted by the NCSA for Data Protection Day: be #PrivacyAware. Protect your personal information and that of your children by following these simple steps.

  • Improve your passwords – Use stronger passwords. The website howtogeek.com recommends opting for a password which has 12 characters minimum; is composed of numbers, symbols, capital letters and lower-case letters; is not a dictionary word or a combination thereof; and does not rely on obvious substitutions (such as "H0use", for example). You might also want to update your passwords regularly and avoid using the same password across different accounts. For this purpose, a password manager like 1password, Dashlane or LastPass can be of great help.
  • Use two-factor authentication – Using two-factor authentication on your mobile apps is an additional security layer for your personal information.
  • Configure your privacy settings on the social media platforms you use. If you can, avoid any "public" settings, especially for underage or younger users. Many guides are available online to help you navigate through the privacy settings of most apps.
  • Beware of phishing – Do not click on any link sent by an unknown email address, do not share them with your contacts, and do not give the sender any personal information. It could be a phishing attempt; a malicious technique aiming to steal your personal and banking information.
  • Back up your data – Backing up your data will keep it safe in case anything goes wrong with your computer or device (virus infection, computer crash, hard drive failure) or if you are targeted by a ransomware attack. You can store a copy of your data on the cloud (in that case, choose a cloud storage service with end-to-end encryption of your data), on an external hard drive, a CD or DVD, or a USB flash drive. Equally, when storing your data on a physical device, always remember to "wipe" it before discarding it.
  • Be mindful of the apps you install – In 2018, Chinese app Meitu was accused of violating user privacy by "excessively collecting recognisable bio data" and "user financial information". Make your children aware of the fact that if an app is free, the user is paying for it in some other way, typically through their information. Delete accounts and applications you no longer use.
  • Be careful when using public WiFi hotspotsEuropol warned citizens about the risks associated with public WiFi networks, which can "also provide an easy way for identity thieves and cybercriminals to monitor what you're doing online and to steal your passwords, your personal information, or both". Therefore, never share any sensitive information on these networks. Instead, consider using a virtual private network (VPN) to keep your data encrypted, enable your firewall, and turn off the automatic connection feature in your device's WiFi settings.

Participate in Data Protection Day!

Get involved in Data Protection Day by discussing and raising awareness about the importance of appropriate data protection at work, at home, in your community, or in your school. Browse through the StaySafeOnline website for interesting Data Protection Day resources, including this Champion toolkit. You can also officially show your support by becoming a Data Privacy Day Champion.

Better Internet for Kids (BIK) also offers a comprehensive range of resources on data protection and children, such as:

 


Additionally, you may extend your commitment to spreading the word about data protection and online safety by joining the Safer Internet Day (SID) celebrations, on Tuesday, 5 February 2019! Millions of stakeholders from more than 140 countries around the globe will join forces "together for a better internet", where everyone - especially younger users – is empowered to use the web responsibly, respectfully, critically and creatively.

To get involved, visit the SID website, as well as our Facebook and Twitter profiles, and follow the #SID2019 and #SaferInternetDay hashtags. Show your support by sharing our social media visuals and adding a Twibbon badge to your profiles. Discover what is taking place in your country for the occasion, and register your own activities.

You may also want to have a look at the #SaferInternet4EU campaign, an EU-wide series of initiatives launched in February 2018 by Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, to promote critical thinking, media literacy and digital skills, and to provide tips on cyber hygiene. In particular, view the European Cyber Security Month (ECSM) cyber hygiene resources.


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Safer Internet Day (SID) is just around the corner! The celebrations will take place on Tuesday, 5 February 2019 all around the world, with more than 140 countries involved. The campaign's slogan, "Together for a better internet", is a call to action for all stakeholders to join together and play their part in creating a better internet for everyone, and especially for children and young people.