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Data Privacy Day: 5 Tips to Help Keep your Private Data Private

Okta Privacy & Product Legal Team

As new technologies continually integrate themselves deeper into the lives of average consumers, these users increasingly benefit from the enhanced productivity and convenience that these technologies offer. That being said, knowing how to leverage these technologies in a way that optimizes personal privacy isn’t always intuitive for the average person.

In honor of Data Privacy Day, here are five simple ways that everyday users can help keep their private data private.

1. Use messaging tools that support end-to-end encryption

Messaging tools like Signal, WhatsApp, Viber, and Line use end-to-end encryption to privately send messages from user to user. This encryption inhibits external individuals and organizations such as internet service providers, government bodies, and malicious hackers from accessing or tampering with private conversations; only the people engaged in communication can read the messages.

Some of these tools come with additional functionality to help boost privacy further, such as giving users the ability to lock messages with a passphrase or hide their typing patterns using an incognito keyboard. Some even inform users when the people they are messaging with are not using an encrypted messaging tool, giving the sender insight into which messages are secure and which ones are not. Together, these privacy-first features make end-to-end encryption messaging tools one of the most secure methods of communication.

2. Optimize privacy settings for IoT devices

IoT (Internet of Things) devices are devices that utilize the internet to transfer data from one device to another, or from a device to a person. Some common examples of IoT devices are smart TV’s, fitness trackers, and medical sensors. While IoT devices like remote cameras can provide extra protection from standard threats like break-ins, anything connected to the internet serves as a potential attack surface for prying eyes. 

There are a few steps that consumers can take to help limit this risk. First, users should check their data-sharing settings for IoT devices to ensure they are not sharing to public feeds or with third parties. Additionally, users can help mitigate these risks by mapping each device and switching out default passwords and settings. While any device connected to the internet can serve as a potential threat vector, these steps should serve as a good starting point for consumers using these types of technologies.

3. Be mindful of Bluetooth settings

While Bluetooth-enabled devices can be great resources of productivity and convenience, users should be mindful of how they use this functionality. The biggest privacy concern stemming from Bluetooth boils down to how commonly it is used. Bluetooth devices have become such an integrated part of our lives in the form of wireless headphones, keyboards, keychain finders, and other tools that most users tend to always have Bluetooth activated without even realizing it.

This alone leads to privacy issues because Bluetooth pings everything it passes and shares data when enabled. This puts users at risk of random passersby — or worse, malicious opportunists — being able to intercept private data.

The simplest way to prevent this issue is to simply turn off Bluetooth when not using it. While there are other privacy-related settings that users can take advantage of, like only sharing data with “trusted devices”, fully turning off Bluetooth when not in use is a more effective method.

4.Be smart about social media settings and activity

Social media platforms are essentially a treasure trove of personal information. It’s not uncommon for hackers to seek out people on these sites and glean information about where they live, where they work, their family members, etc. Some even go so far as to make fake accounts and attempt to connect with users to gain access to private information.

To mitigate the risks inherent to social media, it’s imperative that users only connect with profiles that they are sure that they know. Additionally, they should make sure their privacy settings are properly set, i.e., ensuring that only friends can take a deep dive into user profiles and keeping contact information under wraps.

Perhaps most importantly, no matter how confident consumers are in their privacy settings, they should avoid posting anything that they would not be comfortable sharing publicly. There is no such thing as a 100% secure platform and oftentimes many things consumers delete from the web are never truly deleted, so share carefully.

5.Know your rights under the GDPR and the CCPA

In recent years, users have begun to take more note of the data that they share and demand more transparency from companies on how personal data is used.

In response, regulations like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (CCPA) have been put in place to regulate personal data use, give individuals more clarity into what that data use looks like, and even empower users with some say over how their data can be handled.

For example, organizations impacted by the CCPA (see the list of criteria on our CCPA FAQ page) must provide users with the right to know about the personal information they collect, disclose, or sell, the right to request the deletion of personal information, and a handful of other rights.

By having a baseline understanding of these regulations, users can make more informed decisions about sharing their personal data with privacy in mind. A good first step in evaluating a company might be to check their privacy policy page and see if they offer transparency around their data practices.

Conclusion

We hope these five tips will help you make more informed decisions and keep privacy in mind when you share your personal data. To learn more about Okta’s stand on privacy, and our approach to the GDPR and CCPA, check out the resources below. Happy Data Privacy Day 2020!