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Data Privacy Day: Keep Your Information Safe No Matter How You Get Online

Dr. Andy Ozment
Assistant Secretary, Cybersecurity and Communications

Data Privacy Day, recognized each year on January 28, is an international effort focused on protecting privacy, safeguarding data, and enabling trust. Since 2008, Data Privacy Day has encouraged everyone to weigh the benefits and risks of sharing information, understand what their information can be used for, and take steps to protect themselves and their identities.

Ensuring the privacy of your data can be complicated. Today, you don’t even have to be at a computer to be sharing your personal information online. While convenient, mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones provide more opportunity for your personal information to be at risk. Additionally, information sharing is built into many applications and devices. Fitness trackers can broadcast your latest workout (or even your weight!) to all of your Facebook friends; apps can use your smartphone’s GPS feature to tell friends when you are on the road; and photo sharing sites can share your location as well. This type of information sharing can foster communities and connectivity, but can also potentially put your personal data, privacy, and identity at risk.

I encourage everyone to think about the information they share online and to take steps to protect their personal information. Start with these tips from Stop.Think.Connect.™ cybersecurity awareness campaign:

  • Secure your devices. Take advantage of lock screens, passwords, and fingerprint capabilities to secure your smartphones, tablets, and computers.
  • Set strong passwords. Make your passwords hard to guess, and change them regularly.
  • Think before you app. Many apps request access to personal information, including your contact lists, phone books, pictures, or friend lists. On some mobile devices, you have the option of denying an app access to that information.
  • Own your digital life. Think carefully about what you post online. Everything you put on the internet – photos, tweets, and blogs – will be out there people to see forever. Take ownership of your digital life by making sure that only what you want to be seen is posted.
  • Customize the settings on your accounts. Many accounts include default settings that promote more information sharing. Check your account settings to ensure only the information you want to share is visible to those people you want to share it with.

Protecting data privacy is not only a personal matter, but a national priority. The safer we are with our own data and our actions online, the safer we are as a nation. President Obama recently announced renewed efforts to protect the privacy and identity of Americans, including new legislation protecting consumers, standardized privacy laws, and safeguards for the identity and personal information of children.

At the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), we take data privacy very seriously. The Department handles the personal data of millions of Americans. To protect this information, DHS developed privacy policies and procedures based on the Fair Information Practice Principles (FIPPs), a set of eight foundational principles that are derived from the Privacy Act of 1974. Using these principles as the foundation for privacy activity helps DHS programs and technology analyze their use of personal information and ensure information is collected in a transparent and protected way and only collected to support the DHS mission.

For more information on how to stay safe online, visit Stop.Think.Connect. to learn more.

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