Personal Data Privacy and You

In the expanding online and digitally connected world, privacy is gaining increasing attention. While the average American is beginning to recognize and understand the true value of their personal information, people also continue to express concerns about their privacy online.

Lately, a slew of research has been released about how the public perceives the digital economy’s impact on their privacy. According to research conducted by the Pew Research Center, 91% of Americans believe they’ve lost control over how their personal information is collected and used by companies, and 64% believe the government needs to do more to regulate the way advertisers use our personal information. In light of the recent Sony and Anthem hacks, the latter affecting upwards of 80 million Americans, personal information security should be a concern for us all. Just ask those folks who had their credit card information stolen after shopping at Target…

Centura College goes to extreme measures to protect both the financial and personal information of its students. In support of Data Privacy Month (Jan. 28 – Feb 28), we’d like to offer some helpful tips and resources that you can employ to help protect yourself and your family from digital attacks.

Social Networks

  • What you post can last forever: Before posting online, think about how it might be perceived now and in the future and who might see it. Remember, Grandma’s a pretty savvy web surfer, too.
  • Own your online presence: Set the privacy and security settings on web services and devices to your comfort level for information sharing. It’s ok to limit how and with whom you share information.
  • Be aware of what’s being shared: Remember, when you share a post, picture or video online, you may also be revealing information about people other than yourself. Be thoughtful when and how you share information about others.
  • The golden rule applies online as well: Post only about others as you have them post about you.
  • Going on that dream vacation? Tell people about it after you get back. Posting that you will be out of town is like telling everyone that no one is home; help yourself to my mail and belongings.

Your Information is Worth More than Gold. Protect It!

  • Think before you act: Be wary of communications that implore you to act immediately, offer something that sounds too good to be true or ask for personal information.
  • Get two steps ahead: Switch on two-step verification or multi-factor authentication wherever offered to prevent unauthorized access.
  • Make passwords long and strong: Mix capital and lowercase letters with numbers and specials symbols (for example, * ^ @ #) to create a more secure password.
  • Don’t use the same password over and over: If a cyber-thief knows you have accounts at Amazon and eBay and various other places, they bet you use the same password. All they have to do is get it right once. Here’s an idea: use mnemonics to generate your password. Do you have a favorite phrase? Take the first letter of each word and add a number and/or symbol for spice.
  • When in doubt… Links in emails, on Facebook posts, or other online advertising are frequently ways to gather your personal information, called phishing. If you are uncomfortable with a request for your personal information, even if you know who sent it to you, it’s safer to delete and contact them via their website or an alternative method of communication. You could do something novel and call them. The same goes for attached files. If you didn’t ask for it, get rid of it.


The National Cyber Security Alliance has a vast amount of information regarding data security and ways to better protect yourself and your family. Their Privacy Library contains links to why privacy matters, cookies and behavioral tracking, health privacy, identity theft and more.

Educause, a nonprofit association and the foremost community of IT leaders and professionals committed to advancing higher education, offers valuable insights, blog posts and news on the topic of data privacy and cybersecurity awareness.

The US Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) site is an invaluable resource for alerts and tips, publications and announcements from the Department of Homeland Security that have global implications.


Privacy and personal data security begins with a very simple message everyone using the Internet can understand and adopt: STOP. THINK. CONNECT. Take security and safety precautions, understand the consequences of your actions and behaviors online and enjoy the benefits of the Internet. Be a responsible Netizen as the Internet is everyone’s responsibility.

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