Data Privacy Day 2020


By Pinn Duong

Initiated by The Council in Europe in 2007 and recognized by the US House of Representative in 2009, Data Privacy Day is observed annually on January 28th and became an international effort to inspire discussions and raise awareness of privacy rights and data protection.


When you are outside: 

Avoid using unsecured (free) Wifi, which is often the case at coffee shops or convenience stores.  Consider using virtual private network (VPN) or mobile hotspot for secure connection.

(Image: mytechquest)  2012 Norton Cybercrime Report

On your personal device

Keep your device(s) and software up-to-date, which include operating system, web browser, apps. Even when you never need the new features that the latest updates offers, updates provides better security and defense against online threats and malware.

Delete when done: some apps are only for a single-use or a short-term, delete them after they are no longer useful 

Use antivirus software: no antivirus can guarantee to protect your device(s) from all threats, but I can provide a basic protection against common malware via periodical scans.

When you’re online surfing / shopping

Strong  passwords: use long & complex passcodes to lock your devices and don’t reuse the password across different accounts. Here’s a tip to a stronger password without forgetting them: use a phrase instead of codes 

A passphrase can contain symbols, and does not have to be a proper sentence. A passphrase is longer than any random string of passcode, easier to remember, satisfy complex rules and next to impossible to crack. Try to reach a minimum of 10 characters for passwords/phrases.

Change password after news of data breach: as digital consumers we are informed of data breaches and are advised to change our password by the company. It’s important to not ignore those messages to ensure your old data become useless even when stolen

Spot email phishing scams

Be alertful whenever you are online so you will be able to detect sneaky scams such as similar but not identical senders/domain names.

An example of an email from a scam sender. Can you spot the mistake?

There are 3 simple rules to spot phishing schemes:

  • Ignore emails, phone calls and websites that create a sense of urgency or requires you to respond to a crisis immediately .
  • Completely ignore what an email looks like: every single detail in a scam email is intricately designed to trick its readers (from logo, brand banner/fonts/image/text, sign-in buttons).
  • Figure out where the destination of the link URL direct to without clicking.

Identical looking button/link can lead to different destination websites (such as the 2 links below). Once you click on a link in a scam email, depends on what the scam click was designed to do, it can direct you to an infected website, access and private data on your device, or open an attachment. We are all susceptible to clicking phishing links when we are unalert online.

Office 365 Login

Office 365 Login

There are several ways you can figure out the destination link without clicking:

  1. Hover over – but do not click – an image/text link to display its actual destination.
  2. Right-click the link to select t “Copy Hyperlink” (Outlook), “Copy Link Location” (Firefox), “Copy Link” (Edge), or “Copy Link Address” (Chrome), and paste it somewhere else to see the text link.
(Image: Digital Check) Hover over a image/text to see the destination link appear

Have a quick read here to learn how to distinguish between a legitimate URL and a fake URL. Above are only a few ways to help you stay safe online, there are soooo many more crucial tips that extend beyond the length that this blog allows. The classic quote by Spiderman’s Uncle Ben fits right into our high-tech life, “With great power convenience, comes great responsibility.”


But even if you are a tech-savvy person who draconianly follows all the online privacy protection rules above, you can only protect yourself from illegal hackers, not the legal tech companies that seek out and monetize on your privacy.

If it was a decade ago, the invaders of our data privacy were black hat hackers, but as we enter the third decade of the 21st century, we will have to add tech giants and federal surveillance to our list of invaders as well.

When you  contemplate on what tech giants such as Google and Facebook can collect about you, how much data your phones and devices have on you, all the modern advancements and convenience you are enjoying becomes more Orwellian. The all-knowing ad engines of Google keep tabs on your searches, videos you watch, your locations (via map), your communications and connections (mail & hangout), your (in)decisions ‘to buy or not to buy,’ your previous and future plans (calendar). Even when you have navigated carefully through the rainforest of privacy settings that allows you to limit Google’s control of your data, it’s still unclear what you’re actually permitting Google (not) to do and to what extent is it complying with your permission.

Accompanying the intense growth in big data technologies in the last decade is a plethora of shocking revelations of  behind-the-scene data privacy violations occurred on a tremendous scale.

  • 2013: Edward Snowden disclosed to the media about CIA & NSA ‘s extensive phone & internet spying surveillance on Americans & foreign countries.
  • 2016: Facebook collected data of 50 million Facebook users and indiscriminately shared it with Cambridge Analytica (a political data analytics company) who stored and used it for political advertising without users’ consent. It’s important to note that this was not a breach, but was designed to do so.
  • 2018: Tech companies sneaking into your wallets: Google bought credit card transaction data of approximately 2 billion card holders from Mastercard and shared it with advertisers to track how online ads lead to real-world sales. Not to lose out on the race, Facebook asked US banks to share their customers’ financial data to increase user engagement on its marketplace.
(Image: Bryce Durbin / TechCrunch)

It might seem hysterical or paranoid by some as to why we should be worried about mass surveillance, as if there’s some heinous hidden scheme underway to seek control or revenge upon us. But it’s critical to be aware of the current tech infrastructure already in place that makes it possible for companies to profile most of us via our cell phone use, and how this growing infrastructure can manipulate / influence our daily life and decisions.


Featured image: from cnet

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