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Data Privacy Week 2024: 5 Tips for Protecting Your Personal Information Online

Join us in recognizing Data Privacy Week with these tips to help protect yourself and your family online.

Why is data valuable?

“If you aren’t paying for it, you aren’t the customer; you’re the product being sold.”

You’ve likely heard of tech companies and apps selling user data without their knowledge or consent.

Tech 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 more they profit.

Those dog toy ads you’re seeing as soon as you get a puppy? It’s likely that you searched online for something like “puppy training,” and that data was passed from one company to another.

Tracking of our activity online is only increasing, which means access to that data is increasingly easy for people with bad intentions.

The most common threats: identity theft, manipulation through ads, discrimination based on your personal information, and harassment.

What can you do to protect your data privacy?

Here are five ways to safeguard your information.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Lock down your hardware. Set up your phone or PC to require a password to unlock. Devices are stolen just as much to re-sell the equipment as they are for the data they hold. Also, make sure you’ve installed anti-malware apps.
  4. Use multifactor authentication. It’s a default setting for many online accounts — including myCalPERS — but make sure all your online accounts require you to enter a code that has been texted or emailed to you. Multifactor authentication ensures that if your password is stolen, a criminal won’t be able to access your account without the code.
  5. 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’re giving.

CalPERS is committed to keeping your data private and secure, including using sophisticated cybersecurity systems and following industry best practices. Our Privacy Policy webpage has more information on what sorts of data we obtain, how we collect it, and how it’s used.

You can find other tips and information about myCalPERS on our website.