It’s Data Privacy Day, but What does that Mean to You?

Security & Privacy

Today is Data Privacy Day (or Data Protection Day as it’s known in Europe). Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean you get gifts, so it hasn’t caught on in the same way as holidays like Christmas. But what you do get is the chance to take part in the conversation about how you see the boundaries that separate your public life from your personal life. So what do you have to say about this? And why is this topic so important anyway?

Well, F-Secure Security Advisor Sean Sullivan posed this question to just over 1,000 people in the US and UK in 2014. While about 83% of respondents said they don’t have anything to hide (slightly more in the UK than the US), 89% said “no” (again, slightly more in the UK than in the US) when asked “Would you want to share everything about your life with everyone everywhere, all the time, forever?”

The point being – people think about privacy in different ways, and a lot of what they think is shaped by the conversations about privacy that we have.

A recent F-Secure survey posed a variety of security and privacy related questions to almost 9000 people in 11 different countries. You can see the breakdown of some of the results below.

Privacy Concerns

When asked about whether they were concerned about data privacy, and if they changed their Internet habits as a result, many people disagreed with the statement (more Americans seemed concerned compared to other nationalities). So people are either unconcerned about their data privacy, or at least not enough to change their behavior.

However, other questions focused more on particular threats to online privacy, and these responses indicated considerably more people are concerned about these threats.

The majority of respondents said they avoided using public Wi-Fi – a well-documented security and privacy risk.

And an overwhelming majority of respondents said they avoid installing apps asking for unnecessary app permissions (which are critical for controlling what apps can access what data).

Avoiding using certain apps or services strikes me as an indication that people are concerned about these things. And they’re right to be worried about these things, which becomes more apparent when confronted with questions that highlights how vulnerable their online privacy actually is.

I asked Sean about this, who pointed out the way we talk about things like privacy on Data Privacy Day/Data Protection Day is more significant that people might think.

“In North America, we say Data Privacy Day. In Europe, we say Data Protection Day. They refer to the same thing, but represent it in different ways,” says Sean. “I want to protect my data because privacy is important to me. I don’t want everyone to know my phone number or my credit cards number, so I try and use services that don’t collect this information.”

“It’s not because I’m emotionally attached to my personal space, even though that’s important, but I feel like that information could be used in ways that may be harmful. And that aspect isn’t always clear when people talk about online privacy.”

Just over a year ago, Sean wrote that he’d like to ask people “Are there things in your past that are best left forgotten?”

Maybe today is a good day to start talking about that.

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