Online Privacy and Data Protection for 2013

April 10, 2013

While the trail of email and social media information may not seem like it would be interesting to anyone outside of those producing it, a recent editorial on PC World detailed the reality of this data – and the value it carries for many individuals and organizations. This year especially, more threats are emerging that emphasize the importance of cloud and email security.

"The nature of online activity compounds the privacy problems we already experience in the material world”, Senior Editor Melissa Riofrio wrote. "Every move we make on our PCs, smartphones, and tablets turns into a data point that trackers can easily collect and share. And you effectively agree to such collecting and sharing whenever you sign up for an online service and accept its privacy policy."

Chris Calabrese, legislative counsel of the American Civil Liberties Union, told Riofrio that there is a big gap between what people think their privacy rights are online and what those rights actually entail. He said many end up mistaking a privacy policy to mean they actually have privacy, but these provisions are usually meant to protect the organization.

The risks this year
Riofrio said there are some major issues this year that anyone interested in online privacy and safety should keep an eye on. One big issue is cookie proliferation,  which she said allows advertising networks, marketers, and other stakeholders to profit from user data.

"Five to ten years ago, if you opened NYT.com in your browser, you'd get a cookie from the New York Times, maybe a couple, and that would basically be it," said staff technologist Dan Auerbach of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "Today you get probably on the order of 50 cookies from all sorts of third parties: ad servers, data brokers, trackers. They can build up this big profile about your browsing history. … It's totally invisible to users. They have no idea what's happening."

The volume of data makes this intimidating for users, as it puts a lot of their information out there that they may have wanted private. The Obama Administration included a Do Not Track provision in the proposed Privacy Bill of Rights, but experts said this has "no teeth" as of yet.

Attacks grow more targeted
Not only is privacy an issue in the area of data flowing through the internet, but targeted attacks seeking this data have also seen an dramatic increase over recent years, and still continue to trend upwards. Many of these attacks will attempt to infect devices with malware via email, tricking the user into clicking a link or attachment that initiates the infection. Once malware is installed, it will immediately begin siphoning data from the user, maximizing its time with access to the user’s data before any remediation or malware removal occurs.

Awareness and protection. Data flowing through the internet, including email and all web requests, needs security measures applied to ensure a business keeps its information secure.

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