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The Key Facets to Managing Personally Identifiable Information

The Key Facets to Managing Personally Identifiable Information

From an objective point of view, the amount of trust that people put with companies based on the Internet is pretty astounding. In addition to providing whatever product or service they offer, these companies are often given highly sensitive information with hardly a second thought from the consumer. Here, we’ll review how millions of people learn that this trust was misplaced each year, why these companies want all this data in the first place, and how important it is to follow a few data collection best practices in your own business.

Today’s Websites
More often than not, people choose to do much of their business online. Therefore, people will find a company’s website and request more information. To do so, they usually need to fill out a form, adding their name, address, and other personally identifiable information. This is also known as PII, and it’ll pop up again later. The important takeaway here is, once you’ve filled out the form and clicked the submit button, you have given whatever company your PII - and many companies will use it for more than just reaching out to you.

The Value of PII
Many companies (let’s assume that this includes the one we were just discussing) will bundle your PII into a massive group, creating a big ball of insights to sell to marketing companies. Why not? You willingly handed it over to them, so why shouldn’t they collect it and sell it?

Unfortunately for you and whoever else filled out the form on the website, however, the company is hacked. As a result, all that PII is now out there, ripe for the taking. What’s worse, in many places, the consumer whose data was ultimately made vulnerable has no recourse to resolve this problem.

And don’t think that you can avoid this by simply not filling out forms, either. You add to your own personal data trail with literally everything you do on the Internet. Messaging, shopping, idle browsing… it all generates data. Using this data, a comprehensive profile can be accurately constructed around any person, covering political beliefs, their personal relationships, and (of course) their finances. This profile is then used to target these users, either as an above board means of marketing to them more directly, or criminally, identifying those who could be seen as vulnerable. In light of this, you need to have a grasp on protecting your data online.

Defending Your Data
Protecting your data is key for any level of success. Any piece of your PII should be seen as valuable, whether it's your name, address, phone number or other example. There are entire companies devoted to obtaining your information to assist in marketing endeavors - and they aren’t going to compensate you for it, either.

However, accepting that your data is a valuable commodity is the first step to fully protecting it. Here, we’ve compiled a few tips to help you keep your PII safe:

  1. Be clever with your security questions - A common-enough security tactic is for an online account to ask a user security question that (in theory) only the user would know the right answer to. Trouble is, these questions can often be somewhat easy to guess the answer to, so you need to think smarter than the cybercriminals will. Avoid questions and answers that could be researched and deduced about you. That way, it’ll be that much less likely that someone manages to break into your account through those means.
  2. Read the TOS - I can already hear you scoffing. Yes, the Terms of Service that accompany any application or program are anything but an engaging read, but there is crucial information in there that you should familiarize yourself with… including a data collection policy.
  3. Monitor your finances - The first step to controlling your data is knowing when something is off. Keeping an eye on your finances is a great means of catching any issues that could indicate that your data has been breached.
  4. Avoid public Wi-Fi whenever possible - While a free Wi-Fi connection may seem too good to pass up, they are frankly just too risky to your data’s security if you have any other option.
  5. Using solid passwords - In order for a password to be effective, it needs to be sufficiently complicated. Create your passwords or passphrases to be lengthy enough, with enough variety in the letters, numbers, and symbols used to make them too difficult to guess.
  6. Be aware of scams - Scams, especially phishing scams, can and do come from a variety of sources in multiple formats. Before you start clicking in things willy-nilly, cast a critical eye over what is being promised.
  7. Check for security features - When filling out forms online, you need to make sure that the website has the proper security measures to assist with keeping you safe--and that they don’t overstep what they’re asking for as far as your information is concerned.

For more best practices to help you keep your PII safe, as well as to better manage your business IT as a whole, subscribe to our blog. Or, reach out to us directly to learn more by calling Suffolk Computer Consultants at 631-905-9617.

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