The 28th of January is Data Privacy Day.  It’s an international day of education, endorsed by the Council of Europe, the United States Senate, the UK Information Commissioner, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada and the Data Security Council of India among others.

As the name implies Data Privacy Day is about protecting your personal information online. On this day organisation across the world take it upon themselves to promote awareness about the urgent need for data privacy and protection as well as encouraging collaboration and partnerships among governments, industry, academia, privacy professionals and educators.

Billions in profits every year

Data privacy is a huge issue. We often have no idea who owns our data and how they are gathering it.  .  Peek behind the façade of many online services, such as Facebook and Google, and you’ll discover gargantuan data gathering operations that hoover up user data to drive billions of dollars in profit each year.
  • When you install an app it provides you with the utility you were expecting but it also sits inside your mobile phone, scanning your contacts list, knowing who calls you, when you use your phone and when the app is being used. It can share this information with unknown third parties.
  • Apps, websites and online services allow users to log in via Facebook or other social media sites. This means giving the application access to some of your social media data.It’s difficult to know how much information you’re giving up, but in the infamous Cambridge Analytica ‘bust’ in 2018 the company use this approach to illegally gain data on more than 50 million Facebook users.
  • The systems that hold all this raw data make associations and connections to others. Click a link on LinkedIn and connections are suggested. Visit a profile on Facebook and a raft of suggested ‘friends’ are aimed at you. Use a social media app on your mobile and the networks track your geographical location through GPS, Bluetooth or Wi-Fi signals.
Trust us

We’re not suggesting that the myriad organisations that scoop up your data are using it for anything but commercial purposes. But the inescapable fact is that should someone or some organisation choose to do so you can be identified as an individual and all your quirks, peccadilloes, activities, purchases, movements, interests and secrets all laid bare.  Your life becomes transparent.  According to some estimates up to 5,000 data points are available on any one individual.
  • Facebook was just one of many companies that participated in Prism, a secret US surveillance programme designed to capture private data from citizens using major internet services like Gmail, Facebook, Outlook, and others. Facebook denied any knowledge of Prism though in leaked government documents the social media giant was named along with Google and others as a participant.
  • For those deep into internet privacy Tails is the go-to operating system because it doesn’t leave any digital traces on a computer. Go to the Tails website to download the operating system and the US National Security Agency (NSA) will know all about it.
In defence

The problem is that apps and online services are usually not breaking the law given that you are likely using a product that you signed the terms and conditions for. 
  • If you want to use or sign up for a service or app you have to accept the privacy terms.
  • Buried somewhere in the privacy terms however is a proviso that not only allows a company to take your data but often pass it onto to third parties. Who are these third parties? We typically don’t know.
You’re not powerless

There are several simple but important steps you can take to protect your online privacy.

  • A VPN, virtual private network, keeps you anonymous online by hiding your IP address. But You need to make sure you’re using a service that has a good reputation such as BullGuard VPN. It encrypts your data in an unreadable file,encapsulates your data in a secure packet, routes your connection through secure remote servers and masks your IP address, creating a shield that is hard to see, tough to crack and nearly impossible to track.
  • It doesn’t log what you’re doing online or keep records of the websites you visit, ensuring you have complete online privacy and security. It is based in a location that is beyond the legal jurisdiction of countries that typically request online records.
Free to roam
  • BullGuard VPN keeps your online activities safe and private where ever you are in the world simply by connecting to the internet via the VPN.  It also has the added benefit of enabling you to access services that may be blocked because of geographical restrictions. For instance, perhaps you live in the UK but are in Spain and want to connect to UK-based streaming services. You simply connect to the internet via the UK server to access these services.
Implement two-factor authentication
  • This is a sign-in method that requires two or more pieces of evidence of your identity to enable login. The first piece is usually a username and password that you use when you sign into a service and the second is a number or passcode that can be received on your phone. You can’t access the service until you enter this number or passcode.
Password manager
  • A password manager creates strong passwords for you. Every time you visit a site, it will either auto fill your existing password or, if it’s a new site, create a strong password for you. Password managers can also scan your current passwords for weaknesses and recommend stronger versions.
Be aware

As you can see Data Privacy Day is extremely important which is why so many heavyweight organisations get behind it. And we haven’t even mentioned the identity fraud that can be carried out if data is stolen.
  • Some organisations that collect and store this personal data are either clumsy or completely negligent in their cyber security practises, leading to massive hacks of personally identifiable information.
  • To make matters worse many people who have this personal information stolen aren’t even aware of it.  Their ID data may be used for fraud and they only discover it months later.
Apart from the steps detailed above just being aware of how your data is being captured and used can be a huge step in keeping you safe. Keep checking in with this blog for more insights and tips whether you’re interested in secure online banking, avoiding malware, keeping your personal information confidential, protecting your kids online and more.