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8 things you should do to mark Data Privacy Day 2023

Many of us spend hours a day online for both work and personal reasons but most of us give very little thought to our data privacy, at least until it gets compromised. In fact, in a 2019 survey of Americans 78% said they have little to no understanding of what the government alone does with the data it collects on them, according to the Pew Research Centre.

Protecting our data privacy is not a new concept, but with the rise of the internet and 4.66 billion people worldwide classed as internet users according to National Today, the collection of people’s personal data has become increasingly easier, both legally and illegally. Many of us do little more than the basics when it comes to protecting our data privacy, such as not sharing our passwords with people. But companies can access our personal data so easily as most of it isn’t treated as private by default. And, in all honesty, most people who have access to our personal data do not really need it.

It’s why the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) holds Data Privacy Day on 28 January as a reminder to everyone to spend some time thinking about their data privacy and take any necessary actions in relation to it to keep themselves safe online. Read on for tips and actions you can take right now to help protect your data online.

1. Understand the increase in regulations

Governments all over the world are taking action following the rollout of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the EU in 2018. The UK, for example, published the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill in July 2022. Its main aim is to reduce the burden of compliance on companies by taking away some of the obligations, especially those to do with record keeping. The bill hasn’t yet progressed further through the legislative process so could change further and it’s one to look out for.

Overseas, the US is currently considering passing its own federal data privacy law just like GDPR while Japan, Australia, Canada and India are in the process of introducing new data laws too.

2. Update your privacy preferences and passwords

One easy but important way to keep on top of your data privacy is to review and update the privacy preferences on your web browser, delete cookies and clear the cache. It’s a very quick job, but it means certain settings on sites get deleted so you are no longer automatically signed in to accounts.

Something we all get told to do but very rarely actually listen to is to choose different passwords for all the accounts we own and also to update these passwords regularly. Of course, across our work and personal lives many of us have so many accounts these days that remembering a different password for each one could be close to impossible. In this scenario you could consider subscribing to a password generator tool, which works by generating different, random passwords for each of your accounts but you only have to remember one master password.

3. Say goodbye to cookies

Third party cookies will soon become a thing of the past as consumers become more conscious of their data. So what will replace them? Organisations are now looking towards a future without cookies, instead implementing new technologies that will track and target users. Some companies are exploring browser fingerprints, for instance, which are basically unique identifiers that can track what a user has done without needing cookies.

4. Learn about the ‘Internet of Things’

It’s a term many of us will have heard but we may not know much beyond that. The Internet of Things is essentially the concept of connecting any electronic device to the internet as well as to other connected devices. Take time to understand how all of your digital devices connect in your personal Internet of Things from your smartphone and home alarm system to your TV, PC, car and even your fridge. It’s important to identify all the digital devices you own where your personal data could be stored – and where it could be taken from.

5. Give your operating systems some attention

Make sure all relevant devices, such as your phone and computer, are running the most recent operating systems and software. Every new release and update to an operating system comes with new features, including improved security. And, as an example, once Microsoft releases a new operating system it will focus on providing support for that system. The old system will therefore reach end of life, meaning Microsoft will no longer offer security fixes, technical support or software updates for it.

6. Embrace the rise of privacy-focused tech

With more and more people learning about the importance of data privacy through awareness-raising like Data Privacy Day, there will be a surge in demand for technology that prioritises privacy. You may already be using some of them, such as virtual private networks (VPNs), encrypted email services and secure messaging apps and browsers. These are effective tools to be making use of so embrace as many of them as you can while still implementing other data protection methods.

7. Reset your network router

One fairly unknown tip to improve your data privacy is to pay attention to the wifi router in your home. If you have a router which enables wireless devices such as laptops, phones and speakers to your home internet service, then that is also vulnerable to hacking. If you rent a router from an internet provider, you can contact them to ask if you are eligible for a new one or to see if they can help you update the settings on your current router.

8. Commit to your data privacy

One action everyone can take today is to commit to learning more about data privacy. Make time to read about it regularly and stay on top of new trends, law changes and developments in the data privacy space as it is fast-moving. Even better, share your learnings with others, spread the message that data privacy should be taken seriously and ensure you help others who are less digitally-savvy or may not know as much about data privacy

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