Data Privacy Day 2021

Data Privacy Day 2021 – Privacy Aware

Today, January 28th, is the annual Data Privacy Day.

Read on for data privacy hygiene tips!

Data Privacy?

We all understand the concept of privacy when it comes to concrete observable things we sense. Likewise we understand and respect confidentiality with work, personal relationships, and public interactions. It is understood that there are times where any level of surveillance is unacceptable.

When it moves online in a digital format it becomes harder for people to grasp. The principles are the same yet not readily apparant to most.

Why Should We Care About Our Data Privacy?

There’s a plethora of reasons and many different ways to put it. I’d like to take some common tropes depreciating data privacy and work backward to arrive at a principle.

Apple published “A Day in the Life of Your Data” – it is worth a read. The case specific things Apple mentions apply outside of that vendor and ecosystem.

I’ll briefly touch upon 3 common deflections I hear regarding a perception that data privacy, or privacy in general, isn’t worth taking action.

The “I’m Don’t Have Anything to Hide So What Does it Matter if I am Observed” Argument

Also known as the “If you didn’t do anything wrong what do you have to hide”, this argument appears legit until you put any level of scrutiny on it then it falls apart.

Are you wearing clothes right now? I bet (and hope) you are. Why? Are you afraid about showing your body?

Do you lock your doors at night? Why? Would it be ok if some random person decided to enter your house whenever they felt and looked around?

Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say

Edward Snowden

You might not have anything you think you need to hide right now, but you might in the future. Also other people’s threat model is different than yours – don’t just throw their away too.

DEF CON has a humorous bit in their FAQ:

Do criminals go to DEF CON?

Yes. They also go to high school, college, work in your workplace, and the government. There are also lawyers, law enforcement agents, civil libertarians, cryptographers, and hackers in attendance. Ssshhh. Don’t tell anyone.

DEF CON FAQ

All of these can refute the “nothing to hide” argument. We obviously care about our privacy when given primitive examples but get lost when it becomes digital. The same principles apply – take care with your online persona just like you wear clothes, lock door, and speak in private to your BFF.

The “I’m Not Interesting and Nobody Cares About My Data” Argument

If data about you isn’t so valuable why are so many giant tech companies so ardently trying to get every bit of data about you? Why do you think Google, Gmail, etc. are free? Do you know how much it must cost to run those data centers only to give everything away for “free”?

Your data is worth a lot more than the price of a coffee.

People who say this remind me of the people who say things like “money isn’t important” then turn right around and ask if you can donate to them. This double-speak should be a red flag that something isn’t right.

The “Privacy is Dead” Argument

No doubt the data privacy landscape has greatly changed since the advent of the World Wide Web, online commerce, and social media. However, it isn’t a zero sum game.

To live in modern life and carry a smart phone makes some feel this is a hopeless fight. But I suggest re-framing that. For example, my blog is public facing. Everyone knows who I am and with a little Googling can discern a great deal of information about me.

I’m ok with that for 2 reasons:

  1. I can do it back to you – remember it is bi-directional
  2. I get in front of the issue by owning my public self and have ways of doing things more privately when I specifically want to

Simple Actions to Preserve Your Data Privacy

You don’t have to be a l33t h4X0r or hackerman to reveal only the data you want about yourself to the world.

There’s low hanging fruit to grab – consider:

  • Own your data – get out in front and curate your online profiles to reveal only what you want to only those you want to see. Posting things on social media is like driving a truck with a bullhorn through a neighborhood broadcasting a message.
  • Just like “time is money”, “data is money”. Treat it as such. Be careful how much you share and to who just like you are careful about how much money you spend and who you choose to purchase from
  • Tackle the basics to prevent leakage e.g. use a password manager, use a VPN, use MFA where you can

I leave you with this:

I hope this encourages you to be more mindful about your personal data and help you to better manage it.


If you liked this post then you might also like my post about The Worsening of WhatsApp – Signal for Privacy

Do you care about your privacy? Then YOU need to use a VPN.

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