Happy Data Privacy Day!

So, what are you doing to raise awareness about privacy issues today?
I’m sending various awareness communications to several mailing lists and online groups I belong to. Here’s the message I sent to my school parents’ mailing list…

Today is international Data Privacy Day! I am taking this opportunity to pass along three important things you can do to help protect your, and your family’s, privacy:
1) Use personal firewalls and anti-malware software on your laptop and home computers. The amount of spyware that is being circulated and used to steal personally identifiable information (PII) from personal computers is staggering. Not only can the information stolen from you be used for identity theft or other types of crimes, the PII obtained could also, and has been, used for physical harm. Firewalls and anti-malware software can help prevent spyware, and other types of malicious code, from getting onto your personal and home computers.
2) Know the social networking and online virtual world sites your children (most definitely the minors) participate in, and look at the type of personal information they make available about themselves on the site. It is best to not allow your children to use their own names in sites such as Maple Story, Neopets, and other types of virtual online worlds. And certainly do your best to teach your kids not to share any PII that includes where they live, where they will be on any certain day or time, their phones number, birthdays and so on. Also, make sure they know that they should not share their passwords with ANYONE in virtual worlds, or their friends. Some very bad things have happened as a result of kids sharing their online passwords with others.
3) Irreversibly shred or burn all documents you dispose of that contain PII, including such things as your credit card numbers, bank account information, healthcare accounts, and so on. It is becoming even more popular than ever before for criminals to search through trash for such information. Too many people just toss papers with sensitive information into the trash and put it on the curb or in the dumpster. And many have also donated such papers to be used for scratch paper at their kids’ schools, day care, church groups, or other types of groups. You wouldn’t want to find the PII of your children’s classmates’ parents on the back of your kids’ artwork they bring home, would you? Or, even worse for you, you wouldn’t want all your confidential information to make it into the hands of the parents of your children’s classmates, would you? Or someone else who would do bad things with that information?
There are many, many more things you can, and should, do, of course. (If you want more information about this, let me know.) But if you do these three things you will be taking a good step forward to drastically improve your personal privacy, and the privacy of your children and other family members.
If you are interested in ways that you can observe Data Privacy Day at your organization, I’ve posted some ideas on my blog here (http://www.realtime-itcompliance.com/privacy_and_compliance/2009/01/business_info_fact_of_the_day_5.htm) and here (http://www.realtime-itcompliance.com/privacy_and_compliance/2009/01/more_ideas_for_data_privacy_da.htm).
If any of your organizations are doing anything today in observation of Data Privacy Day I’d be interested in hearing about it!
Thanks, and have a great day,

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