One of my biggest concerns while working in the Information Risk Management, IT Security, and IT Governance industry is how most organizations deal with your data. Most organizations fail greatly at protecting your sensitive information; from the small mom and pop store near the corner of your street that makes copies for a few cents (and drops the extra copies in a regular trash can) to the large bank where you would think information is safeguarded.
What are reputable organizations? From my perspective reputable organizations are very difficult to find if we look at them from the perspective of caring enough to protect your privacy. I have walked into an organization with documentation and signs everywhere on how much they care about you as a customer and your privacy to see an employee leaving documents with customer private information accessible for everyone.
Many of us have to be careful when we gauge how responsible an organization is just by thinking of how long it has been in service or how they are perceived in their industry. We can take cases of companies (Enron, Worldcom and the list continues) that were huge and perceived to be leaders in their industries, defrauded the world, employees, and customers.
One of the best examples of organizations that are careless with your personal information are those that either buy your personal information from others without you knowing about it and the ones that sell the information. I know of large organizations who buy mailing list so they can do so called Email Blasts which in everyone’s dictionary should be called “Spam“. These irresponsible marketers use your information to target you by Age Group, Interest (which they most of the time guess), Geographic areas, and other factors. The problem with these Irresponsible Marketers is that they will send SMS (which sometimes can cost the person they are targeting) and emails to strangers expecting them to respond.
I have not met one person who enjoys getting Spam. Most of us ignore Spam when it is able to get by our filters. I am not sure what is going through that person’s head when they decide to Spam people and expect profitable results or even a healthy relationship.
I would call it a crime when companies don not protect customer’s information. These irresponsible companies make it a lot easier for Criminal Organizations to operate. An irresponsible organization can become a source of information and a source of information for criminal organizations to get a hold of private information. By leaving pieces of your information accessible and criminals tie one thing to the other, creating a profile of sensitive information or basically handing them all the pieces to complete a puzzle.
Once this identity is created they can be used to apply for credit cards, loans, and/or to commit many other types of fraud.
How to Protect Yourself?
Here are four quick tips towards protecting your data online:
- Don’t Post emails or phone numbers in your personal or corporate websites. Use contact forms.
- Treat emails from unknown contacts with extreme care.
- Don’t share personal (especially sensitive) information online
- Delete Cookies on a Regular Basis.
- Check the list of examples I posted in TMI (Too Much Information) Being Shared in Social Media
There are many other ways to protect yourself but sometimes the best defense is your gut feeling and a little bit of common sense to protect you from having other people invade your privacy.
If you still have questions always remember to Love Everyone, Trust No One.