If you didn’t know about this special day, then join the club. Happy Data Privacy Day is not as well known as, say, Black Friday (or even Flag Day), but perhaps it should be. It’s a scary world out there, and as the Webs mature, so do the hackers and other opportunistic parties interested in getting their hot little hands on your personal data. That’s why the U.S., Canada and 27 E.U. countries decided to raise awareness. To remind people to think about the safety and security of their data, they officially designated a special day for it: January 28.
And yet, ironically, Google’s new Transparency Report reveals that the U.S.’s requests for data on individuals has been rising rapidly. In the second half of last year, the U.S. made 8,438 requests on approximately 14,791 Google users. This marks a steep rise — at about 70 percent — since 2009, when the House of Representatives passed its Data Privacy Day resolution.
Thanks to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, our law enforcement agencies believe they should be able to get email data older than six months without a warrant. Although Google produced partial information, it didn’t give the U.S. government unbridled access. The company stands by the Fourth Amendment, which says that unreasonable search-and-seizures do require a warrant. Even so, it did provide at least some user data in 88 percent of the requests that came in from June through December 2012. And last year, the company got slapped with a $22.5 million fine for bypassing browser privacy controls in order to cull user data for ad targeting.
Of course, it’s not just Google. So much has been made of Facebook’s privacy policies that the company decided to attack the hot-button issue straight-on by launching a new “Ask Our Chief Privacy Officer” feedback feature.
The issue, however, extends beyond the giants of technology. Data privacy and security should be a high priority for businesses of all sizes, from the Web’s major players to that cool, new startup you just registered with. Unfortunately, the efforts at some companies are crippled by — believe it or not — a strange sense of naiveté.
According to an online survey of Canadian businesses (see below), there’s a disconnect between bosses and their staff when it comes to IT and security. Eighty-seven percent of these owners “trust their employees to adhere to the IT security rules and practices they have implemented,” meanwhile one in four employees knowingly ignore IT and security policies. And a whopping 68 percent of employees “believe management needs to do a better job of educating them on the risks of losing confidential information and creating a culture that values IT security.”
So yeah, Happy Data Privacy Day, everybody. Here’s hoping your information doesn’t get compromised.
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