TOPIC: Online Privacy


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Are you rattled about recent cyber attacks in Europe? Have you heard about WannaCry and are rattled by the words “ransom wear?” Protecting your own online privacy needs to become a regular part of all of our lives, especially because the government is undoing regulations the protect consumers from the companies that are mining our data.

Unfortunately, it seems like a daunting task. At once impossible to figure out and seemingly futile to even attempt. Haven’t we already opened the floodgates to companies so they can mine our data? On one hand, yes – if you love the internet and carry a smart phone (who doesn’t?), you have already made a decision (conscious or otherwise) to choose ease over paranoia. But, it turns out that a little paranoia can go a long way.  A broad awareness by consumers of what they’re giving up to data mining can actually lead to change. We take the optimist approach, and are grateful to the many organizations out there who are working to heighten public perception and demand corporate and government accounatibilty.

And as parents, we can teach our kids basic hygiene for their digital lives. So we challenge you to do some spring cleaning  — a good first step is to examine your password hygiene and do some big picture thinking about the security of your own online identity.

Here is one simple thing that you can do right now to start protecting your data online:

Work harder at making the basic password that protects your phone/computer/laptop a more secure gate.  Most of us have passwords that are pretty easy for someone (or a computer) to crack. So stop it with the birthdays and kid names – instead pick TWO random words (preferably chosen randomly, maybe by someone else) and slap them together. No one trying to hack you should be able to connect you to those words and hence, you’ve provided a secure front door for all your data.

For instance: skittles + manatee

For a great round-up of this topic, please read this NYTimes article, Brian X. Chen’s “How to Protect Your Privacy as More Apps Harvest Your Data.”   Consider spending a few hours before summer starts revising your passwords and checking to see who has access to your data.

Here is a TED Education overview that is helpful.

And a HuffPo article about what you can do.

Here is a good (recent) Consumer Reports article about protecting your online privacy.

If you want to be particularly cautious, follow the Electronic Frontier Foundation, whose mission is to protect civil liberties in a digital world,  and learn how you can ward off the onslaught of data harvesting.