Data Privacy Week: January 24-28

This week is Data Privacy Week, and Information Technology Services (ITS) encourages everyone to review how much personal information others have access to or know about them.

During the week, individuals are encouraged to educate themselves about how to manage their personal information, keep it private, and become more aware of online privacy, according to the National Cybersecurity Alliance.

Personal data is any information about you that will allow you to be identified, including your name, address, social security number, or license number. It can also be your cell phone number, ID card information, and location data from a cell phone.

It is essential to know what information you want to share and what others will do with it if you do. Cybercriminals may use your information, which you may have provided, to try to scam you.

One such scam targets Mason faculty members by sending them emails that appear to come from senior university officials, the dean of their school, or their supervisor. The email seeks the recipient’s cell phone number and asks the recipient to purchase gift cards. If the gift cards are purchased, the person is asked to provide the information for the criminal to redeem the gift card so the thief can pocket the money.

That is why it is important to know who needs your information and why.

The National Cybersecurity Alliance said all online activity generates data. The organization said you should:

  • Understand the privacy/convenience tradeoff by making informed decisions about what you share. Determine if providing the information requested is worth the benefit you will receive for providing it. Also, decide if you want to share information that is not relevant or required for the services being offered.
  • Manage your privacy by checking the privacy and security settings on the web services and apps you use. Devices, applications, and browsers have different features to help you select what information you want to share.
    Protect your data by using long, unique passwords and storing the passwords in a password manager. Also, use Two-Factor Authentication, where it is available, to add another layer of protection to your data.
  • The National Cybersecurity Alliance has a site to allow you to check and adjust privacy settings, including on social media sites and various apps. You can find the site at

Being selective about the information you provide will help you stay safe online.