Facebook Does It Again

Shortly after its founding, Facebook had developed a rather simple privacy policy: “No personal information that you submit to Thefacebook will be available to any user of the Web Site who does not belong to at least one of the groups specified by you in your privacy settings.”

Over the years, Facebook has frequently changed its Privacy Policy and tinkered with default privacy settings, almost always to the detriment of its users.  Mashable has chronicled some of these changes in its infographic A Short History of Facebook Privacy Failure.

Recently, a team of researchers released a study detailing how emotions expressed in Facebook posts and status updates can actually spread to your friends.

Parents: How Much Should You Share Online When it Comes to Your Kids?

We live in a “social world.”   Parents have many opportunities to disclose information about their children in social forums – by posting family news and photos on Facebook, tweeting your child’s latest accomplishments in sports, even launching a blog.

Social media can be a great tool for parents, but how do you know when you are sharing too much information about your kids?

This is largely a matter of personal choice, but it is important to be aware that the burden generally falls on parents to protect their children’s privacy.   As is often the case, it is easier to be proactive than reactive. 

Here are three very basic points to bear in mind before you share information about your child on social media.

Privacy Policies: What You Should Know

If you are like most people, you don’t really want to read privacy policies.  They aren’t typically easy to understand.   Nor are they often descriptive enough for you to actually grasp what a company is doing with your information. Even so, we believe they can be valuable tools to help you protect your personal information.  You might discover privacy settings and choices you were unaware of.   You will also find that some companies take your privacy more seriously than others, which may help you choose who to do business with.

If you want to learn more about how to read a full privacy policy and what information they should contain, see the California Attorney General’s helpful guide

Using Internet Cameras: Take These Steps to Protect Your Privacy and Security

Internet cameras let you monitor your home or business from afar, enabling you to check in on your kids, pets, property, and business. They’ve become increasingly popular among people who need to be in two or more places at once.

Being able to access a camera’s feed remotely means that the camera will be sending its video information via the Internet.  Without the proper security measures, these Internet (or IP) cameras may be giving strangers a front row seat to your personal life. There are a variety of cameras available on the market that offer specialized “administrator” controls as well as different levels of access. It’s important to find an IP camera that provides flexibility and convenience without sacrificing privacy or security.

5 Back to School Privacy Tips for Parents of K-12 Students

Lately there has been a nationwide push for stronger student privacy rights – and for good reason.  Schools, districts, educational technology providers, and various other vendors collect a lot of student data. 

Even if your state lawmakers haven’t taken a step to better protect student data, there are federal laws that give students and their parents some rights and control over their personal information.   Here are five tips to help you understand and make informed decisions regarding your child’s privacy.

1.  Read your annual notification of FERPA rights.  If your child attends a public elementary or secondary school, the school must notify you each year of your rights under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA).  For example, you have the right to access your child’s education records and request that any inaccurate or misleading information be amended.    

Deep Insert ATM Skimmers May Pose a Risk to Your Money

Most of us have heard about ATM skimmers.  They are card readers attached to an ATM that can steal the data off your debit or ATM card's magnetic stripe.  The data can then be used to create a clone your card.  Typically, skimmers can be easy to detect if you know what to look for.  However, a new breed of ATM skimmers known as deep insert skimmers can be much more difficult to spot.  These are wafer-thin devices hidden inside the card acceptance slot of the ATM.  They are virtually impossible to detect when on an ATM.

Using an ATM (or for that matter, a credit card reader in a retail store) always poses some degree of risk.  However, there are steps you can take to better protect yourself.

Prepaid Cards and Your Privacy

Prepaid cards, also known as “general purpose reloadable cards”, have become increasingly popular in the past few years, among both consumers with and without a bank account. According to a recent report by The Pew Charitable Trusts, approximately 1 in 11 consumers use a prepaid card at least once per month, and 27% of these users do not have a checking account.

Since prepaid cards look and function much like bank cards, many Americans may see them as a simple alternative with less obligation. However, prepaid cards can also come with a hefty list of ‘terms and conditions’ governing fees, penalties, and responsibilities the consumer may not even be aware of at the time of purchase.

 

Passwords and Your Privacy

Passwords are the first line of defense against the compromise of your digital information.  Revealing the data on your phone, your banking information, your email, your medical records, or other personal information could be devastating.  Yet many people fail to follow proper practices when selecting the passwords to protect this important information.  Here are some password “dos” and “don’ts” that can help you to maintain the security of your personal data.

Do use longer passwords.  Passwords become harder to crack with each character that you add, so longer passwords are better than shorter ones. A brute-force attack can easily defeat a short password.

Do use special characters, such as $, #, and &.  Most passwords are case sensitive, so use a mixture of upper case and lower case letters, as well as numbers.  An online password checker can help you determine the strength of your password.

California Student Records to be Disclosed in Ongoing Lawsuit

The Identity Theft Resource Center and Privacy Rights Clearinghouse want to alert all parents of school-aged children throughout California about a pending deadline to object to the potential release of their child’s sensitive personal identifying information. The deadline for parents and adult students to object to the disclosure of personal information and records is April 1, 2016.

Tax Season Fraud Prevention Tips

Tax season is here, and with it come scammers and identity thieves hoping to profit.  Here are Privacy Rights Clearinghouse’s (PRC) top tips and resources to help you protect your privacy, your money, and your identity.  

Reduce the risk of your mail falling into the wrong hands. You should take steps to protect sensitive information year round, but during tax season you will likely receive a number of “information returns” containing sensitive information such as your Social Security number.

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