Date posted: January 26, 2012
Today (January 26) is Data Privacy Day. Sponsored by the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA), it “promotes awareness about the many ways personal information is collected, stored, used, and shared, and education about privacy practices that will enable individuals to protect their personal information.”
Google announced that, as of March 1st, it will combine more than 60 separate privacy policies into one that will apply to all of its sites and services. Google will begin to collect and combine information about users from all of its sites and services in order to build a better profile of users’ wants and needs. There is no way for a user to opt out, without option out of all of Google’s properties.
Google’s explanation makes a certain amount of sense—more date about a user gives Google a better chance to predict the user’s desires and to customize experiences for each unique user. Still, privacy advocates worry about potential misuse of this much aggregated data about any person’s postings, search habits, and online behaviors.
Zappos is the latest in a long line of companies that, however elaborate their security systems were, have none-the-less been hacked and customer data endangered. Even the FTC’s Onguard Online website has been hacked and is, as of today, still down while technicians attempt to identify and fix the problems.
After hearing about the extensive efforts many companies (Comcast, AT&T, eBay, Facebook, and MasterCard, among others) are putting into data security, problems still occur. As NCSA’s Executive Director, Michael Kaiser, said in closing, data privacy and security is everyone’s problem. Companies need to invest in technologies and procedures to ensure safety, and consumers have to do their part by making sure their devices are free of viruses and malware, are protected by firewalls and antivirus programs, and that users don’t engage in risky behaviors while online.
Easier said than done. What no one really addressed was the urgent need for consumer education. Who’s airing PSAs about data privacy and security? Who’s teaching adults and kids about these important topics?
In overwhelmed schools, it’s one more unfunded curricular unit that doesn’t necessarily fit in any one academic subject area. It’s one more topic about which teachers have received no professional development. It’s requires more time in an already stretched day. No wonder it’s not a priority in K-12 education.
Yet data privacy and security fit perfectly within a framework for digital citizenship education. In schools that are implementing a comprehensive digital citizenship program, these topics are brought up across the curriculum, as a natural part of learning core academic content and appropriate, ethical conduct.
But until more schools adopt this approach, until there is a large public awareness and education program, there will continue to be a need for events like Data Privacy Day.