If you think your personal information is secure, think again. Keeping your information safe is now the exception, not the rule. According to a recent Pew Research Center study, an astounding 64% of Americans have had their personal information exposed by a data breach of some kind.
Of this group:
Unfortunately, there are unscrupulous people on the Internet who are looking to take advantage of you. As such, it’s important to learn what kinds of information these individuals are looking for and how they can use your data to harm you. More importantly, you need to know how to protect yourself by guarding your information online.
The most important type of information to keep private is personally identifiable information (PII).
According to the U.S. General Services Administration, PII is “Information that can be used to distinguish or trace an individual’s identity, either alone or when combined with other personal or identifying information that is linked or linkable to a specific individual.”
Some examples of PII are:
While this list may seem exhaustive, it doesn’t cover all the personal information you need to protect. You also need to worry about what you post (and what others post about you) on social media and other sharing sites, because these things serve as clues to your true identity when combined with the PII in the previous list.
Securing your personal information can help you:
Identity theft occurs when someone gains access to your personal information and pretends to be you online. Individuals who have accessed your personal data can retrieve your login information for various websites or commit cyber crimes such as tax fraud, all while posing as you. Identity theft is the type of crime that can have long-lasting repercussions for both your digital privacy and your online reputation.
According to a report by Javelin Strategy & Research, a record 16.7 million people experienced identity theft in 2017, and this number is likely to increase as the Internet becomes an even bigger part of our daily lives. However, you can lower the odds of experiencing identity theft by reducing the amount of information you provide:
Cyber criminals can take your banking information and make unauthorized withdrawals, purchases, and transfers. Although financial websites are encrypted, there are still steps you should take to ensure your money is as safe as possible:
Most residential burglaries occur during daylight hours, when people are at school or work, because it’s easier to steal your stuff if you aren’t there. Consequently, you can avoid being a target if you don’t advertise the fact that your house is vacant. Common ways to do this include setting timers to automatically turn on lamps at night, putting a temporary stop on your mail, and arranging for a neighbor to collect your newspapers and packages.
Another important way to protect your belongings is to avoid posting any information about your vacation plans on social media. Of course, it’s hard not to share the news when you are excited about an upcoming trip. But when you tell your Facebook friends that you will be going to Spain in August, for example, you are essentially letting thieves know the best time to rob your home. As such, it’s better to wait until you have safely returned to post all those amazing photos of your trip.
Nearly 100 percent of employers do background checks on potential employees, and these investigations examine your social media profiles, as well as data from public records available online. To avoid damaging your online reputation, and thus sabotaging your career, you should remove any personal information that might negatively influence a prospective employer:
If you own a business, you have even more reasons to worry about data privacy. A single data breach costs American businesses an average of $7 million, taking into account the firm’s direct financial loss, business disruption, regulatory fines, and credit monitoring and identity theft repair services. In addition to these costs, failing to protect your customers’ personal data can destroy people’s trust in your brand, and trust is a key factor in consumers’ purchasing decisions.
To safeguard your customers’ personal information (and thus your company’s reputation), you should:
If you knew that someone was watching you, would you act differently? Yes, you would. People try harder to be “good” when they think they’re being watched. This is known as the “Hawthorne Effect.”
As such, when you realize that other people are following all of your online activities, you won’t explore websites that might contain ideas that are outside of the mainstream for fear that someone might find out and judge you for this behavior. Knowing that you’re being tracked effectively inhibits your freedom of thought.
To protect your freedom of thought:
In much the same way that your social network status updates and tweets can prevent you from gaining a new job, they can also damage any chances you or your loved ones have of gaining admission to college. Recruiters and admissions clerks search for applicants online, often judging them solely on what they’ve posted on social media.
To increase the odds of receiving an acceptance letter from the college of your choice:
As part of their risk-assessment procedures, life and health insurance companies research potential and current customers’ digital footprints. This means that all of your online activities, such as what types of things you purchase and which groups you associate with, can affect your ability to obtain coverage and whether or not a company will pay out on a claim.
As such, it’s imperative that you secure your personal data. See how in our article How to protect your online data from insurance companies.
What you share online can be used against you in court. In one instance, a man sued for a workplace injury. However, his Facebook posts later revealed that he had hurt his knee while fishing. Another case involves a man involved in divorce proceedings who lost custody of his son because of threatening messages he posted online.
To maintain credibility in court and increase the odds of winning your case, you should avoid posting anything that might cause a juror to doubt your claims or that makes you look bad.
Everyone should be concerned about their digital privacy, no matter who they are or what they do in life. Unfortunately, not everyone agrees with this. Some people believe that if you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to fear, but this is a fundamentally misguided perspective.
You never know what combination of personal information and new technologies will lead to future threats. After all, nobody could have foreseen 20 years ago that putting government records online would be a boon for identity thieves.
Even if you have nothing to hide, you need to protect your privacy—because something completely innocent-seeming today might lead to a huge personal threat in the future. To prepare for these unknown assaults on your data, the only thing you can do is to make it less accessible.
Now that you’ve learned a bit about why it’s so important to keep your personal information private, you might want to know more. The following articles can help guide you:
by Jennifer Bridges @JenBridgesRD
15 Jun, 2020  0  Comments
Written by Dan Rafter for NortonLifeLock
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