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Outreaching in cyberspace: Data privacy advice from a leading expert

Not all data handling processes are this robust and not all organizations have an ethical data policy in place.

Image: © AFP
Image: © AFP

Consumers need to be mindful about data privacy and related data safety issues. The importance of maintaining privacy has become a global concern, in relation to both the practices of companies that handle data (and may sell data) plus the issues associated with data breaches.

It is important that data is used by businesses in a way that is fair, lawful and transparent. Data must also be used only for specified and explicit purposes; and be used in a way that is adequate, relevant and limited to only what is necessary.

Other important data handling principles are that data is accurate and, where necessary, kept up to date and that data is kept for no longer than is necessary. It is also of importance that data is handled in a way that ensures appropriate security, including protection against unlawful or unauthorised processing, access, loss, destruction or damage.

However, not all data handling processes are this robust and not all organizations have an ethical data policy in place. Hence, more needs to be done to educate people about the importance of respecting privacy, safeguarding data and enabling trust.

To help with this education piece, personal privacy advocates at NordVPN have created a list of things you can do to better secure your information and activities in cyberspace. The list of ideas has been shared with Digital Journal:

  • Create strong passwords, especially for your sensitive accounts.
  • Update your antivirus software.
  • Configure your browser to delete cookies every time you close it.
  • Secure your accounts with two-factor authentication or two-step verification.
  • Use some sort of screen protection, whether a pattern, pin or password.
  • Switch to a secure search engine that doesn’t log your info (e.g. DuckDuckGo).
  • Set your browser to the incognito mode.
  • Turn location services off on your smartphone.

Daniel Markuson, digital privacy expert at NordVPN, explains to Digital Journal: “Data Privacy Day aims to raise awareness on issues of privacy, however, awareness is meaningless if it doesn’t turn into action.”

He recommends: “Protecting your individual privacy is all about creating habits, such as putting extra effort into creating strong passwords, not clicking on unknown links or downloading unverified files, disabling Wi-Fi & Bluetooth when they’re not in use, and overall staying attentive while browsing online.”

Such tasks should not be ignored, adds Markuson: “While this may sound tedious, there are tools that can make protecting your privacy much more effortless. A VPN hides your personal information, password managers protect your credentials & generate strong passwords, while file encryption tools make it so only you can access your files.”

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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