5 Common Data Privacy Misconceptions
5 Most Common Data Privacy Misconceptions
By Neil Cook
Protecting private data is more important than many people realize, and also quite simple. Here, Neil Cook unpacks the top five most common misconceptions of cybersecurity to demonstrate why you should learn how to protect yourself and your data.
1. I have nothing to hide. Why do I need my data to be encrypted?
No skeletons in your closet? No searches you’d prefer didn’t surface? That’s fine, but what about your credit card information, passwords and Social Security number? Just because you don’t have dirty laundry to air doesn’t mean your personal data isn’t worth protecting.
Consider that many people have their identity stolen through the simple process of someone looking through their trash for personal information; now think what someone could do if they could see all of your emails.
2. Encryption gives wrong-doers/terrorists an invisibility cloak.
Well, not really. This argument is outdated. We’re stuck in a Catch-22 where there will always be a threat. Either your right to privacy is protected (and potentially so are wrongdoers) OR your data is vulnerable.
3. Why should I care about how big companies use my data? It doesn’t matter to me.
It should matter to you. Many, if not most, of the services we use on the internet today are based on a simple “bargain,” which goes something like this: “You get to use our service for ‘free’, and in return you agree that we can use your personal data to target the advertising that actually funds our business.”
Most people understand the “free” part, but they don’t necessarily understand the implications of the second part. It’s worth thinking about how a company that offers a free service can make tens of billions of dollars in revenue each year. That money has to be generated from somewhere, and ultimately it’s you, the consumer, who pays by sacrificing privacy to a greater or lesser degree.
4. Protecting myself on every device feels impossible.
It’s not. Easy solutions include using services such as Qwant.com or DuckDuckGo, which are non-tracking search engines. Non-tracking search engines do not record your every click, swipe and purchase, keeping your data safe from exploitation.
Additionally, almost all browsers support a Private/Incognito mode to stop sites from storing cookies and other tracking data in your browser. There are also password management systems such as LastPass that centralize and protect your passwords so that no one but you can gain access to them.
5. Isn’t it the government’s job to protect my privacy?
One of the most shocking revelations that came from Edward Snowden was the extent to which western governments had been secretly and pervasively monitoring the internet traffic of their citizens. Despite the public outcry associated with these revelations, governments continue with these efforts, although now generally through legal means, for example, the “Snoopers Charter” bill recently passed by the U.K. government.
While it can be legitimately argued that forcing service providers to store our browsing and email traffic records is helpful in preventing and detecting terrorism and child pornography, it doesn’t prevent the fact that this data is being stored and is thus potentially available not just to the government, but also anyone who is capable of stealing it.