Hooray for Data Privacy Day!

Though I am sure that you didn’t miss it, some readers may be unaware that Data Privacy Day happened back in January. Your intrepid writer celebrated DPD by taking a moment to reflect on the increasing difficulty of maintaining one’s privacy in an increasingly connected world. Most folks understand that privacy is equivalent to human dignity grounded by one’s ability to reasonably control information shared with and used by others. The ability to control information gets complicated however, when information is everywhere forever. In the coming years, we will witness (it is already happening!) an explosion of Big Data and the Internet of Things. These technological advances will inevitably force a change in the way we understand and manage our privacy.

Privacy and security awareness seems to be increasing for the average Internet user. For example, TRUSTe, a data privacy management firm, released its 2013 Privacy Index Consumer Confidence Survey. This survey largely confirms what we in the privacy field already know: consumers are increasingly concerned about how organizations use information about them. The tension between convenience and privacy is an inevitable consequence of the ubiquity of our information technology landscape.

So, do we throw up our hands and vow to get off the grid to preserve our privacy? Not likely – the train has left the station. That said, there are lots of ways to reduce privacy and security risks in the online world. One fantastic resource is available at StaySafeOnline.org. Another well-written five-part piece article on actionable online safety can be found on the popular tech site, Ars Technica.

Like most organizations, Patterson develops and maintains policies (for examples, see here, here and here) that define how we use information about our customers. We recommend that you familiarize yourself with these oft-ignored documents. You too may want to recognize belated-Data Privacy Day as an opportunity to review your data management policies and practices.