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Data Dilemmas

13 Jan 2021

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Internet privacy is an ever-growing concern, especially with children and the content they are able to view. Aside from that, many concerns for the privacy of email, the vulnerability of internet users to have their internet usage tracked and the collection of online personal information also exist. Did you know Data Privacy Day is 28th January?



There are many arguments against the necessity of privacy on the internet. One of the most common responses is “if you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to worry about”. The problem here is that the word “hide” presupposes that nobody can ever have a good motive for wishing to protect information about their private lives. This is plainly false. 



Many people can have a very legitimate interest in avoiding disclosure of a wide variety of personal information that is none of anyone else’s business. Would you want your bank statements published on the front page of the local paper? Not likely. Therefore it is reasonable to avoid giving everyone unlimited access to your life!



Fortunately, the plus side of living in ‘the information age’ is that there is plenty of good advice and trustworthy tools available to us all to make our internet usage as private and secure as we like.



Use A VPN

When we browse the internet, our approximate geographical location is exposed via our ‘IP address’ which is a series of numbers linked to your internet connection. If you’d rather internet sites didn’t know where you live, using a virtual private network or VPN can mask that information and keep your browsing anonymous.



Strong Passwords

It can be tempting to use things like your birthday or anniversary for your bank account password but this is not secure and can be easily ‘guessed’ by nefarious software used by criminals. The length and complexity of your password increases its security. Alternatively use a password manager such as Bitwarden or 1Password which can generate long and complex passwords that are very secure.



Same Password - NO!

Avoid using the same password for more than one website. If your password is ‘hacked’ or discovered, using the same password for all services could mean that someone could get access to all of your accounts, not just one. Again a password manager can help here or create a password sheet - a physical piece of paper with your passwords on. Don’t forget to keep it in a safe place though!



Don’t Save Personal Info

Many websites, such as Google, offer to save your passwords and information when you use them. While this can be incredibly handy, it also exposes that information to the digital world.



Scammers

Scammers send you emails that try to trick you into thinking your bank or mobile phone provider is contacting you. It is highly unlikely to be a genuine email if it you are asked for personal information (account number, password, credit card number). In this case get the number for your bank or utility company and ring them to ask their advice. If it is a scam they will be pleased to hear about it and you will keep your information safe. These scam attempts can be very convincing so stay vigilant and stay safe!

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