Monday, July 6, 2020

Personal Privacy and Data Collection

Concerns about personal privacy and data collection continue as more advanced technologies are applied. This issue is not going away. Federal protections are held up by partisan politics and the reality that legislation cannot keep pace with technological advances. The laws enacted today are likely to be obsolete within a matter of months.

According to a 2019 survey of the Pew Research Center, most Americans feel that they have little control over how their personal information is collected and used by businesses and government. around 6 out of 10 persons sampled believed that "it is not possible to go through daily life without having their data collected."

The survey discovered that 70% of those sampled believe that their personal data is less secure now than five years ago.

In general, we want protection from entities that seek to gain financially from our information, but we also want the government to effective use data to track potential terrorist activity. The Pew survey found that 49% say it is acceptable for government to collect data about all Americans to assess who might be a potential terrorist threat.

Nobody is fooled by the lengthy privacy notices from banks and financial services. They are written by lawyers who are retained by the companies to protect them from legal liability rather than to inform users as to how their personal information might be shared. The term “privacy notice” gives the impression that the organization is going to protect personal information instead of how it is going to disclose that information.

In the absence of a comprehensive federal data privacy and data security law, individual states fill the gap. An example is The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) which took effect on 1 January 2020. The California Consumer Privacy Act requires that companies "notify users of the intent to monetize their data, and give them a straightforward means of opting out of said monetization."

For now, these are the best practices for protecting personal information: 

Be alert to impersonators and scammers.
Safely dispose of personal information.
Keep security software updated.
Lock your computer to avoid security breaches when not being used by you.
Avoid phishing emails.
Be wise about Wi-Fi use, especially in public venues such as coffee shops.
Do not click on social media surveys.
Never share personal information by email or on social media.
Change passwords every 6-8 months and keep these private.

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