As an increasing number of our day-to-day activities involve the use of technology, it is important to consider the implications of our digital footprints and be proactive about protecting our data privacy.
This lesson provides strategies and resources for responsible digital citizenship, protecting your data privacy, and advocating for rights in the digital sphere.
Be a Good Netizen
Assume the content you post online will remain discoverable online forever. Your social media content could be available to college admissions officers, employers, and significant others who are all using social media to find and evaluate prospects.
Before posting content online, THINK: is it True? Helpful? Illegal? Necessary? Kind?
How does your online identity reflect your personality?
How might your online activity affect you in real life?
Strategies for Maintaining Data Privacy
Strengthen Passwords and Authentication
A general rule of thumb: the longer the password, the more secure it is. Longer passwords contain more characters, and thus require more guesses to crack:
This comic demonstrates how a string of four random dictionary words is actually more secure from password cracking attacks than a shorter password containing special characters (Munroe).
Additional recommendations include:
- Do not reuse passwords
- Do not use easily discoverable personal information (name, birthday, social security number, names of loved ones or pets, address, etc.)
- Do not use a simple dictionary word - instead, use a string of four or more random words
- Use a combination of upper- and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters (but don't rely on common substitutions, such as the number 3 for the letter E)
- Set-up two-factor authentication. An example is a password plus a randomly generated security code sent to your phone via text.
- Check the strength of your passwords
Adjust Privacy Settings
Review and set privacy settings. Look specifically for location awareness settings (GPS) on your device, data sharing settings on your apps, and tracking cookies in your browser. For example, cell phone photos are often automatically geotagged with the GPS location of where the photo was taken.
Your web behaviors are logged, tracked, and analyzed in exchange for personalizing content like search results, product recommendations, and targeted ads. (Find out how from Don't Track Us.)
To avoid being tracked and profiled online:
- Use alternative search engines
- Connect via https:// instead of http://
https stands for 'hypertext transfer protocol secure' and will encrypt the traffic between your computer and websites. This is especially important for online banking or shopping as it protects your financial or payment information.
- Adjust your privacy settings
Chrome also offers Incognito Mode.
Alternately, you can also install browser add-ons to block tracking software.
- Adopt the Tor Browser
Tor routes your Internet traffic through a global network of relays to obscure your physical location and circumvent Web censorship.
For more tech privacy tips, refer to Reset the Net's Privacy Pack and Electronic Frontier Foundation's Surveillance Self-Defense guide.
Have conversations that you do not want recorded in-person and make sensitive purchases with cash.
If you are interested in taking action and getting involved here are some with organizations that work to protect the right to privacy online:
- American Civil Liberties Union
- Electronic Frontier Foundation
- Electronic Privacy Information Center
- Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
- Reset the Net
If you think your personal information has been misused or your privacy rights have been violated, submit a complaint to the appropriate agency, including (but not limited to):
- Consumer Finance Protection Bureau for problems with credit reporting companies and consumer reporting agencies
- Federal Trade Commission for identity theft, company data breaches or other mishandling of personal information
- US Department of Education Family Policy Compliance Office for FERPA (student education record) privacy violations
- US Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights for HIPAA (health information) privacy violations