Data Privacy in 2020: Be Careful and Stay Safe

By Daan Lotter, head of innovation at Itec South Africa

It’s International Data Privacy Day on 28 January – and this year, I’m hoping people take it seriously. Right now millions of people have no idea about how their personal information is being used and abused in our digital society.

There are two main areas of our lives where data privacy is important. The first has to do with your personal space. Here, it’s increasingly important that we don’t just look after our own information, but ensure that the people around us do the same. Speak to your family and friends, and make sure they treat and value your personal information the same as they would with their money. You wouldn’t go and hang your money outside in a tree for all to see. Let’s be just as careful with our information.

Take social media, as an example. How aware are we of what we post, and how we interact? Look at the pictures you post of yourself, your home, your family and even your children. Take the time to double-check anything you post – because once it’s posted on a public platform, your data automatically isn’t private anymore.

Make no mistake, there are plenty of people out there looking to get their hands on your personal information. This goes beyond mere stalking. Criminals are always looking for opportunities on social media. We increasingly hear stories of people who go on holiday, post their holiday pics for all to see – and come back to find their home has been ransacked while they were away. Those pics of you lying on the beach can wait until you’re back at home.

The second area where data privacy is important is in our work environment. It’s important that we don’t just leave it to our employers to keep us safe. We need to take accountability. Ask relevant questions around what data privacy procedures and measures are in place in the workplace, and how we ensure that customer data is obtained and stored correctly.

You should also be taking responsibility for your own work data. I walk past people’s desks daily, and it always surprises me when I see people with cluttered desktops that look like flower pots. If your desktop is cluttered, it’s easy for someone to place a little app icon that you be won’t even notice. You won’t know if it’s something that enables keypad locking or takes over your webcam.

In fact, if I have one message for data privacy in 2020, it’s this: take personal responsibility. The funny thing about common sense is that it’s just not that common. This year, let’s apply more common sense around our personal data and our office computers. Stay safe – and be careful. It’s a jungle out there.