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Is protecting data on your Christmas list?

By Steve Wood, Head of Policy Delivery.

christmas-listAcross the UK, millions of electronic items will top the Christmas lists of children and adults alike this year including mobile phones, tablets, netcams, fitness devices and smart TVs. When the kids are downloading apps to their mobiles and connecting to Facebook via the TV on Christmas Day probably the last thing on your mind will be protecting their privacy.

Take mobile phone apps. Data protection agencies across the world recently carried out a joint survey around apps and found that over 1,200 of them were accessing large amounts of unnecessary personal data from users. This month an alert was sent out to companies to highlight the problem.

This is just one way personal information is being gathered via online and other electronic devices, so with this in mind the ICO has put together five top tech tips to keep personal data under control when using your new devices:

Tip 1 Don’t be afraid to say no – in our recent survey into apps over half the people that took part had decided not to download an app because of privacy concerns. So if you’re not happy giving more details than are necessary when installing an app or for anything online, don’t sign up. And if you do, make sure there is an adequate explanation about how your information will be used.

Tip 2 Take steps to protect your children but also talk to them – children could be accessing the internet in all sorts of ways including via a games console, mobile phone or smart TV. Internet filtering and monitoring software can help prevent children from accessing inappropriate content but they are not fool-proof. The best protection is education so discuss internet usage with your children. Make sure they understand how to use the appropriate privacy settings on social media, how to delete data and that any personal details they give out are not excessive.

Tip 3 Don’t use the default password – immediately change any default passwords on new devices especially those that are wireless or controlled over the internet. Use a strong password: a mixture of numbers, letters and symbols is good, and the longer the better – never use a dictionary word.

Tip 4 Know who knows what – many electronic devices collect information, not just the typical tablets and phones. More recent devices include Smart TVs, streaming sticks and wearable technology. Companies can often gain huge amounts of data from how you use your devices, so do some research into the gifts you’re giving or receiving and make sure you are happy with how your personal information will be dealt with before buying the device. Creating online accounts in advance or setting up the privacy settings can be a good idea before you wrap up your gifts.

Tip 5 Delete your old data – once you’ve received your new gifts, take some time to check old devices you’re getting rid of and any data stored on them. Personal information, bank and credit card details can be securely deleted from laptops and hard drives so no one can access your data if you decide to sell or recycle the device.

Steve WoodSteve Wood‘s department develops the outputs that explain the ICO’s policy position on the proper application of information rights law and good practice, through lines to take, guidance, internal training, advice and specific projects.

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