Take control of your personal data, all year long

A UB instructor advises two business students using a mobile phone.

Published January 16, 2020

January 28 is Data Privacy Day. Take this opportunity to take control of the personal information you share online.

The internet is full of data about you. Whenever you play a game, shop, browse websites, or use any of the numerous apps on your phone, your activity—and often, with it, your personal information—gets collected and shared.

There are many reasons you may want to take inventory what you’re sharing online. Maybe it’s because you know your personal data—including passwords, credit card information and more—are only as safe as the least secure place it gets shared. Maybe you believe your personal data is valuable, and ownership over it is a personal right. 

It’s never a bad time to assess what you’re sharing, where you’re sharing it, and whether you want to be sharing it. Here are some practical steps you can take any day of the year to take better control of your data.

Know what you are sharing

Next time you’re on social media, take a look at the privacy settings. Double-check to make sure you’re only sharing the information you want to share, and consider whether certain types of important personal information (your telephone number or date of birth, for example) need to be shared at all.

Guard your date of birth and telephone number

Telephone numbers and birthdays are among the most common personal information we share when signing up to a new site or service. 

But sharing your phone number or date of birth so freely may not be a good idea. Why? Because they are often used to verify your identity online or over the phone. 

If someone has your date of birth or telephone number, they might be able to impersonate you and reset your passwords, request your banking information, hack your iCloud or social media accounts and more. Someone with your phone number might even be able to circumvent two-step verification on your accounts.

Next time a website asks you for a telephone number or your date of birth, take a second to think whether signing up is worth letting go of this valuable information, and whether the site can be trusted with it.

Keep separate personal and work accounts

While it’s convenient to use one email address (or calendar, or cloud storage) for everything you do, there are some disadvantages to using the same accounts for work and personal stuff.

First, work email (just like anything you do on a work computer) is not private—your employer has the right to access it at any time. Although email is never totally secure, keeping a separate, personal email will help you keep your personal business personal.

Additionally, if you switch employers, you won’t lose access to personal messages and content, and others will still know how to contact you.

Stay safe all year long

Every day is Data Privacy Day on the UBIT website—visit buffalo.edu/ubit/safe for cyber security tips, information about phishing attempts and more, all year long.