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Cybersecurity Intelligence

Cyberspace Privacy Policies – Why Should You Care?

The Senate’s recent attention toward Facebook sheds light on its data Privacy Policy. For two days, a Senate panel grilled Mark Zuckerberg about Facebook’s practices regarding the acquisition and handling of users’ information. Afterward, Facebook announced changes in their policy to address charges that poor handling of user data inappropriately exposed the records of approximately 87 million people. A ripple effect occurred, as other online services have subsequently announced changes to their Privacy Policies.

What is a Privacy Policy?

A Privacy Policy defines expectations users can have about the guardianship of their information: how it is collected, how it may be used, who has access, how long it is kept, etc. Privacy Policies are typically one- or two-page statements of legalese; however, the recent trend is to expand into an online “Privacy Center.” This is a multilayered website section that includes a policy statement in layman’s terms, detailed information about data handling, and a description of tools available for users to control their privacy settings. For example, Microsoft’s Privacy Policy Center includes a section on Windows 10 Privacy Settings and data collection as it relates to other Microsoft cloud services.

Why should you be concerned about data privacy?

In today’s cyber world, data is everything. For both legitimate business and illegal activity, the volume and quality of data can determine success or failure. Data collection tools are rampant throughout cyberspace. In some cases, the needs of the users are well-served, such as Amazon logging user clicks and interests to improve the shopping experience. However, data misuse often occurs. During the recent scrutiny of Facebook, it was revealed that a seemingly benign game app collected data that was possibly sold and used to influence the 2016 US Presidential election. The questions raised to Mr. Zuckerberg were clear: Are the privacy rights of users pushed aside for the sake of marketing, profit, or political gain? What can be done to control the nefarious use of data gathered through social media or other cyber utilities? Do users clearly understand the privacy risks of using online services?

Should you read Privacy Policy statements?

If you are concerned with the preservation of your data privacy and confidentiality, you should read the privacy policies of your online service providers. Clearly defining these policies is a good step by the service operators and a bar for consumers to measure their success. Another way to look at the question may be: “If I don’t like how my data is managed, will I change my data-sharing habits?” How would you answer this question?
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