Computer Privacy and Security—It's All Up To You
You may have to change your outlook.
The Right To Privacy
Privacy, as set out by the Constitution, is a protection from government action, not a right between individuals and corporations. I have no right of privacy from gossip spread by my friends or colleagues. Doctors, pharmacies, hospitals have to follow laws ensuring medical information privacy but stores and websites are free to sell whatever data they have on my shopping patterns. They are only restricted by applicable laws and the user agreements (contracts) that I can choose to accept when I decide to shop there.
When Google announced their own changes to their policies, I made a choice to be more judicious in how I use their products. They gave clear instructions on how to clear data gathered on me and how to avoid sharing information. We all need to understand that these are businesses and the cost of using their “free” products is the sharing of my information.
You lock your house, you lock your car, and you don’t leave your wallet in plain sight while you step away. This doesn’t mean that you will never be robbed, but you don’t make it easy for thieves. When you apply these real world lesions to the virtual world, take a similar approach.
- Lock your door. Do have a firewall set up on your home network. Do have strong passwords. Do have anti-virus software installed.
- Know the neighborhood. When you are in unknown environments, don’t be as trusting. If you go looking for “free” software, “free” music or “free” adult entertainment, you are in the wrong side of town. If you are in a town of thieves, watch your step.
- Keep things in perspective. You aren’t likely to use a padlock to protect your lunch in the company refrigerator (though you might be tempted) but you also aren’t leaving cash on your desk when you head out to replace your lunch when it is stolen. Use easy to remember passwords at news sites or other low-security situations. If it is your bank, go hard-core on the secure passwords.
- Keep your senses about you. Phishing emails are looking to trick you into providing financial information by pretending to be someone else. Use the sniff test to see how legitimate financial emails smell. Don’t be afraid to contact the institution via phone or in person to ask questions. Never follow links in an email if you have suspicions.
- Have insurance. Cars are stolen, houses catch fire. Protect your data by having a backup. Use credit cards instead of your checkbook or debit cards when shopping online to limit your liability and to access more protections.
- Watch your property. Know your rights when your bank account is compromised. You should check your accounts frequently to ensure that there hasn’t been any fraud. Online thieves will often do test transactions in small amounts to see if the accounts are legitimate and frankly, to see if you notice. Financial institutions can help you stop the theft if you notify them in time. Don’t let theft go unnoticed.