January 24 through 28 marks Data Privacy Week, an effort by the National Cyber Security Alliance to raise awareness about protecting users’ online data.
Data privacy matters, but do you truly understand why?
Privacy isn’t about hiding information; privacy is about protecting information. We all have information that we’d like to protect and keep private. Would you give your bank account information to anyone? Do you want all your search and browsing history made public, so anyone can see it? Of course not.
Privacy is key to avoiding unfortunate common threats like identity theft, manipulation through ads, discrimination based on your personal information, and harassment.
Why is data valuable?
You’ve likely heard of internet companies and apps selling user data without their knowledge.
Online companies are after your data because it’s a major source of income. Third parties buy up this data to better understand their targeted demographics.
Whether it’s social networking sites, search engines, or internet service providers (ISPs), the more data they receive the better.
Those dog toy ads you’re seeing as soon as you get a puppy? That’s the result of your data being passed from one company to another.
What can you do to protect your data privacy?
Here are six ways to safeguard your information.
- Don’t provide personal information on your social media profile. People who need your email address, birthdate, and phone number already have them. The more information you share online, the easier it is for someone to steal it.
- Be very careful who you share your Social Security number with—even the last four digits. Only share your number with your bank, a credit bureau, a company that needs to do a background check, or other entities that report to the Internal Revenue Service.
- Lock down your hardware. Set up your phone or PC to require a password to unlock. You might trust your roommates, but think of what may happen if the devices get stolen. Also, make sure you’ve installed anti-malware apps and software to prevent criminals from infecting your computer and stealing your data.
- Use two-factor authentication. You can set up many of your online accounts to require that you enter a code that has been texted to you. If your password is stolen, a criminal will not be able to access your account without the code.
- Be picky about the security questions you choose. Common questions like “What is your mother’s maiden name?” or “In what city were you born?” are meant to keep your account safe from intruders, but they don’t offer much security. The answer to these questions can be found in many online locations. Select questions only you would know how to answer, such as “What was the name of your first crush?” or, better yet, create a fib—only you need to know the answer you are giving.
Make sure you’re doing all you can to protect yourself by updating security settings—including enabling the two-factor authentication feature we mentioned above—in your myCalPERS account. Log in and access your security settings by hovering over the Profile tab at the top of the page.
You can find other tips and information about myCalPERS on our website.