Creating a culture of privacy begins with you

Data Privacy Week logo

January 28 marks the annual Data Privacy Day. Actually, the National Cybersecurity Alliance has been observing Data Privacy Week all week, but today’s the official day.

By now we’re all aware that unscrupulous individuals are after our personal information, but it’s not just about keeping our credit card and Social Security numbers safe to avoid identity fraud. Privacy is important for scholarship, too. As the American Library Association points out, intellectual freedom requires data privacy. Digging into a topic requires the ability to do your research without people watching over your shoulder.

You can do many things to protect your online privacy, such as choosing better passwords, using two-factor authentication (2FA) for your online accounts, and keeping your computers and devices updated to prevent others from exploiting vulnerabilities. Privacy experts preach these things to us, and we feel like we know what we’re doing, that we’ve got it all under control. That, however, may not truly be the case.

Last summer I was fortunate to attend a short class on privacy literacy taught by Alexandria Chisholm and Sarah Hartman-Caverly, both of whom are reference and instruction librarians at Penn State Berks. I learned that the Privacy Paradox is real: People say they’re concerned about their online privacy, but they don’t take many steps to follow through. I had experienced the feeling before, looking back on the things I’d said I’d do and realizing I wasn’t following through. In fact, many of us who think we’re careful with our information are the ones who are more likely to let their guard down and leave themselves vulnerable. Learning that it wasn’t just me, that this phenomenon is so pervasive that it’s been given a name and studied formally was an eye-opener. It made me want to share that message with everyone.

When you sign up for a new service or start using new software, you’re probably going to be presented with the organization’s privacy policy. Do you read it first, or do you just click “Accept” and move on? Do you know what you’ve agreed to share, what “they” are able to monitor while you’re using that service?

I know it’s Friday and we’re looking forward to the weekend, but this Data Privacy Day, take a few minutes to assess your privacy. Yes, there’s a lot to unpack, but resolve to learn more about it and how to teach others. Chisholm and Hartman-Caverly’s Digital Shred Privacy Literacy Toolkit is a fantastic resource for academic professionals to learn more and share that knowledge with others. Get to know organizations such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Electronic Privacy Information Center. We can create a culture of privacy here at Emory and elsewhere.

Don’t just click “Accept.”

by Chris Pollette, Service Design Librarian