Take Ownership of Your Privacy

Learn more at staysafeonline.org/stay-safe-online/manage-privacy-settings

Social media and mobile apps allow people to stay connected with friends and family, organize their work and personal lives, learn new things, explore new interests or activities, make travel plans, play games, or binge-watch the latest shows. However, these technologies also introduce a plethora of ways for personal information to be tracked, shared, or exposed. Here are some tips you can follow to protect your online information and keep your personal information private.

  • Limit the amount of personal information that you share online by updating your privacy settings on websites, apps, and mobile devices at least one or two times per year. Not sure where to begin? The National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) website provides direct links to update individual account privacy settings on popular devices and online services.
  • Working in a public space? People can easily overhear phone conversations, so make sure you move to a private area when discussing personal or confidential information. People can also unintentionally—or intentionally—see what’s on your laptop or mobile device. Consider investing in a privacy screen to prevent shoulder surfing and to help protect sensitive work information or details about your personal life.
  • Turn on two-step verification or multifactor authentication (MFA) whenever it’s offered to help prevent unauthorized access to your mobile devices or online accounts. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) provides more details about MFA and why it’s important. The Two Factor Auth (2FA) website provides a list of websites that support 2FA.
  • Use a virtual private network (VPN) while working from home or using public Wi-Fi networks, especially when using a banking app or conducting other important personal or professional business. VPNs create a secure, encrypted connection (like a tunnel) between your device and the network. You can also use incognito or private web browsing windows to limit the information collected in your browsing history, cookies, or online forms.
  • Don’t overshare! Limit the kinds of personal information you share on social networking sites. And before you post those vacation pictures, remember that the same data used to help sort and store your photos by date and location can also (unintentionally) reveal where you live, work, or vacation.1
  • Online quizzes and games can be fun, but before taking that quiz to find out which Hogwarts house you belong in, think about how the personal details from your social media profiles might be sold to or shared with data collection companies.2 (Look for a privacy policy whenever you play a game or take a quiz to see how social media or affiliate sites may capture and use your personal data.)
  • Learn more about why privacy matters. It’s important to understand the different aspects of privacy (e.g., personal privacy, autonomy, secrecy, limited access, and the “right to be let alone”), as well as how the two distinct concepts of privacy and security differ.3

Notes

  1. Thomas Germain, “How a Photo’s Hidden ‘Exif’ Data Exposes Your Personal Information,” Consumer Reports (website), December 6, 2019. 
  2. “Scam Alert: That Facebook Quiz Might Be a Big Data Company Mining Your Personal Information,” Better Business Bureau (website), March 21, 2018. 
  3. Valerie Vogel and Joanna Grama, “The Yin and Yang of Security and Privacy,” EDUCAUSE Review, January 28, 2019. 

For more information about information security governance, compliance, data protection, and privacy programs, please visit the EDUCAUSE Review Security Matters blog as well as the Cybersecurity Program page. Access additional security and privacy awareness resources through the Awareness Campaigns page.


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