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Personal Data Protection, a Shared Concern

Maxime Beaudoin ,

In the era of social media and intelligent devices, personal data protection should be a concern for all of us. Large institutions like the European Commission continue working on data protection reforms, but that doesn’t mean you also shouldn’t take matters into your own hands.

Why, you ask? The reason is simple: data is becoming more and more centralized, and a simple breach could easily expose your private life to ill-intentioned individuals. They could, for example, access your phone, your email accounts, your bank accounts and all your other intelligent devices. I don’t think you would appreciate being observed through your phone’s camera, seeing your private pictures publicly exposed on the web or having your money slip through your hands.

This may all seem pessimistic, but we can easily observe the consequences of exposed personal data on the web each and every single day. Someone could deduce your daily routine or your position if you publish your activities on social media. You may also frequently receive messages from ill-intentioned individuals claiming to know you on social media. These people can easily make use of your personal data on social media, or even on Google! Have you ever tried searching for your name on Google? You may be surprised by what you find.

Speaking of social media, these platforms are probably the place where personal data is the most exposed and where users are the least aware of the associated risks. While it may be fun when friends wish you a happy birthday on social media, it also makes your birthdate known to anyone who has access to your public profile or posts. It also turns out that your birthdate is often used as a security question when communicating with your bank. Need I say more?

Even though there is no perfect solution, I can give you some tips that may prove to be very helpful!

Try not to use the same password twice

It is of utmost importance to never use a password for more than one account. If one of your accounts is compromised and you used the same password for others, these accounts are now compromised as well. It is also important to use complex passwords for this same reason. It may seem more practical to only have one password to remember, but there are many convenient applications that can help you manage your various passwords and thus mitigate the risk of account breach.

Secure your intelligent devices

Securing your intelligent devices plays a big part in protecting your data. Use passwords or fingerprint unlocking mechanisms. Your intelligent devices are an open door to your social media accounts, your contacts, your pictures and any other personal information that may be stored on the device and in the cloud. Left unsecured, they can be accessed by anyone, especially if lost or stolen. Only use services that comply with data protection reforms and standards While it may be difficult to control data exposition, we all have to understand that it may be impossible to remove information once it’s on the web. That’s why reforms like the GDPR exist. Basically, the GDPR makes it so that service providers must give you the possibility to delete the personal information they have on you. They must also let you know how they use this data for as long as it remains in their possession.

Be careful on social media

This is probably the hardest part. Ideally, it would be preferable to not use social media, but I don’t think this is a viable option for most of us. You may however limit access to your personal information. Only let your friends access your profile, hide your birthdate, be careful with the pictures you share and don’t forget that anything you share could stay on the web forever.

Tell your friends and family

I think it’s important to make sure your close ones are aware of the consequences personal data exposition could have on their lives or the lives of others. This is even more important with teens, who tend to expose a lot of their private life on social media. The consequences can be devastating. A lot of children and teenagers suffer from cyberbullying because of this.

The good thing is, we’re not entirely surrounded by ill-intentioned people. Still, we need to understand that the threat is real. This isn’t science-fiction; your personal data can be accessed and used by people other than governments or high-level hackers. It’s much easier for a person close to you to access and use your personal information.

Maxime Beaudoin

Developer / Technical leader

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