Privacy in Practice: Securing Your Data in 2022 and Beyond

Every year we can count on new technology to make our lives easier. Right? As beneficial and convenient as tech can be, it can also pose risks to our online safety and privacy—risks that we should be prepared to handle. Increasingly, we’re seeing governments around the world implementing stricter privacy laws. And even major players like Google are phasing out invasive tracking technology like cookies. However, when it comes to activities like banking, shopping, taxes, and more, the need for broader online privacy protection has never been greater. Let’s take a look at some prominent trends in the way we now live online and how we can protect our data.  

Web3

Crypto, the blockchain, NFTs, tokens – all of these terms are considered part of what’s being termed Web3. Whereas Web 2.0 described an internet made up of large corporations hosting content and consumers, Web3 is governed by the blockchain. What this means is that applications use a decentralized online ledger to document transactions of all sorts. The most famous example is bitcoin, a blockchain that acts as a digital currency. Another example would be NFTs, which are digital works of art. Web3 may be in its infancy, but it’s important to consider what this means for privacy and data protection. Blockchain affords users anonymity in regards to currencies like bitcoin. Of course that means bitcoin also has a reputation as the currency of choice for money-launderers and other shady enterprises. Still, that means it’s good for privacy, right? Well, maybe. The EU’s GDPR rights to erase or amend data are at odds with transactions on a blockchain, which are essentially unchangeable. So if you’re buying cryptocurrency, NFTs, or interacting with blockchains in other ways, just understand your personal information might be hidden, but the record of your transactions is totally visible. 

Tip: If you’re keeping cryptocurrencies in an online wallet, you’ll want to use an identity protection service to monitor those account credentials so you can be warned of breaches and leaks onto the dark web. 

 Education

Student privacy is a top concern as households turn to remote learning. In a rush to optimize remote learning experiences in the face of a rapidly evolving digital landscape, many educators and remote learners may not realize the hazards that put student privacy at risk. 

Since 2020, schools have adopted a range of technologies to optimize the digital classroom, including virtual learning platforms, holistic learning solutions, and even social media applications. However, many of these digital platforms are not designed for child usage, nor do they have privacy policies in place to ensure that the student data gathered is protected. Many learning platforms may even treat student data as consumer data, raising more red flags regarding student data privacy and compliance. Online learning has also garnered the attention of cybercriminals looking to exploit student data, resulting in online bullying, identity theft, and more. 

For educators and parents alike, knowledge is the greatest asset to mitigating the risks of remote learning. IT teams and educators must understand the implications of the student data they collect, govern access to it, and control its usage to comply with child privacy regulations. Parents can take proper precautions by discussing the importance of privacy with their children. Keeping learning platforms up to date and monitoring their children to prevent them from downloading suspicious apps or straying to unknown websites are all ways to ensure safer remote learning environments. 

Tip: Getting a VPN for the family to use is a great way to safeguard your privacy while your kids are learning online. 

Work

Remote work has become commonplace nowadays as more companies permit their employees to work from home long-term and, for some, permanently. In a recent Fenwick poll among HR, privacy, and security professionals across industries, approximately 90% of employees now handle intellectual property, confidential, and personal information in their homes. Endpoint security, or the protection of end-user devices such as our laptops and mobile devices, poses more of a concern as employees trade in office networks for their in-home Wi-Fi. If these devices and networks are unsecured or if the data is not encrypted, employees run the risk of exposing sensitive information to hackers. Those of us working from home can help ensure the safety of our company’s confidential information by boosting our awareness of security threats and prevention measures via company-mandated security training.  

Tip: McAfee’s Protection Score is a great way to understand how protected you are online and what you can do to stay more secure 

The Metaverse

This buzzy term is being used to describe Meta’s (previously Facebook) vision for a fully connected future. Right now it exists as an AR/VR space accessible through Meta’s own VR hardware, Oculus. However, the terminology has caught on as a catch-all for platforms that may contain work, business, gaming, entertainment, social interactions, and more in one easily navigable, immersive online setting. Web3 features, like blockchain, NFTs, and cryptocurrencies are being touted as integral parts of the metaverse. As exciting and futuristic as this is, there are major privacy questions that will have to be answered. This means that as customers you’ll want to think hard about what you choose to share through the metaverse and look into the privacy settings a platform offers you.  

Tip: Use comprehensive online protection. McAfee Total Protection secures all aspects of your life online. From identity to online connections to antivirus, a full security suite like Total Protection keeps you and your family safer on all the devices you use and places you go online. 

 Personal Finances

Some of the platforms I use the most allow me to keep track of and manage my finances. Whether it’s my mobile banking app or taking advantage of online tax filing, there is such a convenience in having the ability to pay bills, deposit checks, and more, all with the devices I use every day. But many of us may not realize just how much trust we put into these platforms to protect our online privacy, especially when we don’t have a clear picture of who exactly is on the other end of our online transactions. 

While recognizing the signs of online banking and tax-related fraud helps ease the burdens associated with these schemes, there are multiple steps users can take to prevent becoming a victim of these scams in the first place.  

Tip: Full-featured identity protection will protect you financially. Services like McAfee Identity Protection Service include credit checks, identity theft restoration, and even stolen fund restoration as benefits. 

Digital devices are part of how we live our lives every day, whether we’re taking conference calls on our laptops, tracking the latest mile on our smartwatches, or banking on the go. Although our everyday digital devices make our lives that much more convenient, securing them makes our lives that much safer by minimizing online threats to ourselves and those around us. Safeguarding the digital platforms we use for work, school, finances, you name it, is the first step to ensuring our private information remains just that—private. 

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