Data Privacy Part 2: You Share Too Much | Ward and Smith, Pennsylvania

Ed. Note: This is part 2 of 2 in a series.
We live in a time where our digital footprint is preserved forever. Before you even think twice, your data has been collected and recorded.

Indeed, in 2020, it was estimated that almost 2 MB of data has been generated by individuals around the world every second, and data comes in many forms. There is personal information such as social security numbers or driver’s license and physical data such as medical records.

In Part 1 in our series, we covered how companies can become good stewardesses of personal information. Part 2 outlines general best practices for protecting your personal data and making informed decisions about when to share it.

The cost of convenience

There is a price for everything. Many companies often ask for personal information, such as your email address, geographic location, contact list, and even access to your photo album before you can use their services.

There is nothing inherently wrong with sharing this information, especially if it is needed to render services, i.e. weather apps and emails. But consumers should take the time to weigh the benefits of disclosing their information and be wary of apps or services asking for irrelevant information.

Delete and don’t look back

Forty is the average number of applications people have installed on their smart devices. However, users usually only use 18 apps, and some unused apps may still collect your personal information.

It’s best to go through your smart devices, remove apps that are no longer useful, and protect your personal data by deleting accounts associated with these services.

Manage your privacy

Besides deleting unused apps, each app and browser has different features limiting how and with whom you share information. Managing your privacy settings is a daunting task, but peace of mind is a worthy reward. So here are some important things consumers should focus on first:

  • Geolocation data: The data you share with apps can make a huge difference in the results they provide. Make sure your geolocation information is only passed on to those who need it and to trusted websites/apps when using this sensitive information.
  • Contact data: Messaging apps and video conferencing tools allow individuals to automatically sync their existing contacts with the services they use. Therefore, it is important that you share this data ONLY when trusted sources are involved, as we have our own personal contact lists and those in our social networks who could be friends or family members.
  • Camera and photographic data: An individual’s photo library is a goldmine of data and should only be accessed by trusted sources. Social media apps want to access this information, but they need your permission first! Know what’s going on with any app before giving it full privileges so no one can access too much private information like passwords or messages (or both).

Lock it

It doesn’t matter how much information is on the Internet or how strong it is encrypted; there is nothing more important than protecting your password. Change it often and use a unique password for each service you sign up for. Password managers are effective for this purpose and are also useful for storing other sensitive information. Using multi-factor authentication, when enabled, has proven block 99.9% of automated attacks.

A united front

From what is shared by consumers to what is collected by companies, everyone is responsible for the risks associated with their data practices. And while data breaches and cyberattacks are inevitable, a united front only serves to mitigate risk.