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    January 28 or Data Privacy Day is here. It’s a good time for us to stop and think about the implications of other people being able to access our data.

    When I talk about data, I talk about anything that identifies you and I as well as any other information we have access to. For instance, is it okay for random people to access your personal photo albums? Should anybody be able to see your full name and birthday? Sometimes, we start sharing things for a very specific reasons then life gets in the way and we forget to check our privacy settings.

    Social networks are the main source of concern here. It’s not really their fault that sometimes we share too much stuff with others. Clearly, social networks are meant to be places where we can share information with others. They deliver exactly what they promise. The problem is that many people don’t give a second thought about what they’re really sharing and with whom. I previously talked about what criminals could do with the information in your social networking profiles. Data Privacy Day is a good time for us to remember that we should check our privacy settings. Even more importantly, we should ask ourselves, “Do I really want to share this openly on the Internet?”

    If we take the time to learn how privacy settings work (no easy feat for some sites) or even delete what we don’t want people to know about us, we can better protect our privacy as well as that of our loved ones—children included. I did this myself today. I found three old personal photo albums that I finally dealt with. If you are a Facebook friend of mine, you’ll notice I don’t share religious or political views there. That’s not because I don’t have them but because I prefer to talk about them face-to-face. Take the time to review your real-life preferences and transfer them to the online world. At the end of the day, if you don’t wear a signpost with your phone number written on it, why would you do that online?

    If there are two things you should learn from the Data Privacy Day, they are:

    1. Think very carefully about what you do share with others online. Consider deleting older information you’ve shared that you may want to keep private.
    2. Learn how to effectively use the privacy controls of your social networking sites in order to control who can access your information.

    More information about securing your information in social networks can be found in the white paper, “Security Guide to Social Networks.”

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