Data Privacy: 4 Common Issues and How to Solve Them

What is data privacy?

What information may or may not be private?

What’s the difference between data privacy and data security?

Data security

Data security risks

  • Using an internet connection that isn’t secure. (Snoopers can eavesdrop on your internet connections!)
  • Visiting a website with an insecure URL
  • Falling prey to a phishing scam.
  • Data breaches to services with which you’ve shared personal information
  • Reusing passwords

Ways to increase your data security

  • Multi-factor authentication. Also known as two-factor authentication, multi-factor authentication is a feature used by many services that requires you to provide at least two forms of identification. For example, you may enter your username and password into a website, then receive a text message with a unique code that you also enter into the site. This can keep your account safe even if someone gains access to your password.
  • Data breach notifications. How will you know if your password or other personal information has been compromised? In the United States, legislation requires businesses to notify users in the event of a security breach involving personal data. If you receive such an email, it’s a good idea to change your passwords immediately and check any sensitive accounts.
  • Password managers. We all know about the importance of using unique passwords, but it’s impossible to memorize the hundreds of logins we accumulate. Password managers provide an easy way to keep track of all of your passwords, and can even suggest unique, secure passwords for every website you visit.

Data privacy

Risks to data privacy

  • Lack of transparency: If you don’t know exactly how your personal data is being used, stored, or shared, it’s impossible to determine whether your data is being kept private.
  • Impenetrable privacy policies: Most websites have a privacy policy hidden somewhere at the very bottom of some of their pages. Most of these policies are so dense and full of jargon that nobody has the time to read them. This might lead to you agreeing to policies that actually violate your privacy.
  • Ad-supported business models: The majority of free services on the internet are ads-supported. This creates an inherent conflict of interest between user privacy and monetization, since users’ data is extremely valuable to advertisers.

Laws and regulations governing data privacy

  • 2017: Apple began automatically blocking third-party cookies on its browser, Safari.
  • 2018: The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which requires websites to get users’ consent before placing long-lived cookies, went into effect. This law applies to any company that collects data from people who live in the European Union, regardless of where the company is based. (When you visit a website and see a pop-up announcing “this site uses cookies,” you’re seeing the effects of GDPR.)
  • 2020: The California Consumer Privacy Act(CCPA) went into effect. This law gives California residents the right to know what data businesses have on them, to delete that information, and to prevent that information from being sold. Although the law technically only protects Californians, it has actually resulted in greater privacy control for all internet users, since it wouldn’t make sense for most websites to have separate policies for users from California.
  • 2021: Apple introduced a new feature called App Tracking Transparency, which requires iPhone apps to get your permission before tracking your activity across other apps or websites.

4 common data privacy issues and solutions

  • Use an anti-tracking browser extension. Both Neeva and Privacy Badger offer browser extensions that automatically block third-party cookies and other types of tracking.
  • Use a browser that automatically blocks third-party cookies, or change your browser settings to block third-party cookies. Apple’s Safari and Mozilla’s Firefox both block third-party cookies by default, and Google Chrome also offers the option of blocking third-party cookies. For a fresh start, you can delete all cookies.
  • Change ad settings. Both Google and Facebook allow you to opt out of some of their personalized advertising.

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