Many consumers do not fully understand how their information is collected, used and stored by the devices, apps and websites they use every day.
According to a recent Pew Research Center study, 91 percent of American adults “agree” or “strongly agree” that consumers have lost control of how personal information is collected and used by companies. Additionally, 50 percent are worried about the amount of personal information about them online, while 47 percent said they were not confident they understood what would be done with their data once it was collected.
Against this backdrop of haze about collection and use of personal information are the emergence and rapid growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) – with more than 30.7 billion devices expected to be connected to the internet by 2020. IoT devices that you use at home, at work and on the go are fueled by information about you. Your data – like behaviors and preferences – are a significant part of what makes IoT devices work.
Data Privacy Day
On Jan. 28, the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and its partners in industry, government and the nonprofit sector will join forces to recognize Data Privacy Day, an annual effort to educate consumers about how they can better protect their personal information and manage their privacy and teach organizations about how privacy is good for business.
“IoT is really the Internet of Me,” said NCSA Executive Director Michael Kaiser. “As we continue to acquire devices and apps to make our lives more convenient and efficient, we need to be aware that the cadence of our lives is being digitally captured. Data Privacy Day is a time for all digital citizens to carefully consider the data they continuously generate about themselves and others and take steps to protect their personal information and manage their privacy.”
Adopting privacy and security measures
Fortunately, consumers are beginning to adopt some privacy and security measures to protect their personal information. The Pew survey showed that 86 percent of internet users have taken steps online to remove or mask their digital footprints, such as clear their browser cookies, encrypt emails and use virtual networks that mask their IP addresses.
A recent NCSA survey revealed that 74 percent of consumers think it is “important” to “extremely important” that websites have easy to understand and accessible information regarding how information is collected, how it’s used and with whom it is shared, and 47 percent of shoppers who had abandoned online purchases due to security concerns did so because too much information was being asked of them in relationship to the transactions.
Shoppers also reported taking the following privacy measures:
- Trying to understand what personal information a device collects, how it is being used and how it is stored (45%)
- Reading information from the manufacturer about how to keep the device secure over time (34%)
- Keeping IoT mobile apps up to date with the latest software updates (30%)
- Researching the past history of privacy/security concerns about a device (27%)
- Updating privacy settings on social media (27%)
- Reading the terms and conditions of an app before downloading (21%).
Despite taking these positive privacy steps, 61 percent say they would like to do more to protect their personal information, according to the Pew study.
“It’s promising to see that awareness of privacy and security is growing, but there is still a need for more education around how our data is collected, managed and used,” said Kaiser. “Personal information has value – just like money. It’s critically important for everyone to continue to learn about the data use practices of the companies, websites and devices with which they interact and consider how they can better manage their digital lives.”
Tips to better manage your privacy
NCSA recommends taking the following steps to better manage your privacy in a growing Internet of Me:
Own your online presence: Set the privacy and security settings on websites and apps to your comfort level for information sharing. It’s OK to limit how and with whom you share information.
Lock down your login: Choose one account and turn on the strongest authentication tools available, such as biometrics, security keys or a unique one-time code through an app on your mobile device. Your usernames and passwords are not enough to protect key accounts like email, banking and social media.
Keep a clean machine: Update your security software, web browser and operating system to have the best defense against viruses, malware and other online threats.
Share with care: What you post can last a lifetime. Before posting something about yourself or others online, think about how it might be perceived now and in the future and who might see it.