28 January is Data Privacy Day, an international day created to raise awareness and promote privacy and data protection.
When you think of a data breach you often think of twelve-year-old hackers recruited as spies by bad people, right? But mostly data breaches happen because someone was careless with personal information. Leaving the chairman’s sick note in the copier, throwing away the CVs of unsuccessful applicants, or losing the flash drive with the employee salary details on the park bench. We’ve seen some crazy things during our years helping companies protect their customers’ personal information. We thought we’d pass on some of our insights to help you protect your own info.
What can you do today to protect your privacy?

  1. Don’t overshare.
    Only give out the information that was asked and which is necessary to conclude the transaction. If you’re completing a form and some of the fields are optional, leave those blank. Often these fields are unnecessary and the information is only used to create a profile for marketing purposes.
  2. Double-check who you’re speaking to.
    If someone phones you, claiming to be from your bank or a retailer where you have an account and they start asking personal and financial information, first make sure that they are indeed who they say they are. Ask them to confirm your account number or address, something that they would only know if they were indeed from that company.
  3. Make an informed choice.
    Soon, the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) will require that companies who collect your information must tell you why they need your information, what they use it for and who they share it with. Companies will most likely provide this kind of information in their Privacy Policy or Privacy Notice. Take 5 minutes and read it, you may be surprised by what you learn. If you don’t agree with the company’s information practices, best find an alternative provider that you can trust. If you can’t find a company’s notice, ask them to give you a copy.
  4. Own your online presence.
    Consider hiding your email address from online profiles and social networking sites or only allow certain people to view your personal information.
  5. Remember that the internet never forgets.
    Posts on social media last forever. Be aware that when you post a picture or a message online, you may also be inadvertently sharing personal details with strangers.

Keep informed about your right to privacy.
Want to know more about POPIA? POPIA will introduce certain conditions and establish minimum requirements for the processing of personal information by public and private bodies. According to the Information Regulator we can expect the final regulations to be published, the remaining sections of POPIA to commence and the Regulator to become fully operational during 2018.  To read more about how you can protect your data and your rights in terms of POPIA check out this blog series on data and privacy.

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