With cyber-criminals becoming “increasingly sophisticated,” the Better Business Bureau is calling on businesses and consumers to make data privacy a priority.
The call to action comes as Canada and countries around the world mark Data Privacy Day (Jan. 28), an annual event that aims to raise awareness about privacy rights and the importance of protecting personal information.
“As technology evolves and the pandemic continues to influence how consumers interact with businesses and government agencies online, it is imperative that data privacy is treated as a top priority,” said Karla Laird, the BBB’s manager for community and public relations.
“Data Privacy Day is an important reminder that we all share the responsibility of being good stewards of the personal information we give and receive.”
According to the BBB, cyber-criminals are posing “more significant threats to businesses and consumers than ever before.”
B.C. businesses saw a 4.9 per cent increase in cyber-security incidents in May 2020 when compared to February 2020, while across the country, Canadian businesses saw a 4.3 per cent increase.
Over that same period, the top targets for cyber thieves were government agencies across the country, which reported an over 20 per cent increase in cyber-attacks, according to the consumer watchdog.
The BBB is offering some tips and best practices to help consumers and businesses to protect their data privacy:
- Personal information is like money: Value it. Protect it. Personal information, such as your purchase history, IP address, or location, has tremendous value – just like money. Make informed decisions about whether or not to share your data with certain businesses and online platforms by considering the amount of personal information they are asking for, and weighing it against the benefits you may receive in return.
- Lock down your login. For your online accounts, use the strongest authentication tools available. Your user names and passwords are not enough; consider two-factor authentication for key accounts like email, banking, and social media, especially for access on mobile devices.
- Keep tabs on your apps. Many apps ask for access to personal information, such as your geographic location, contact list and photo album, before you can use their services. Be thoughtful about who gets that information, and be wary of apps that require access to information that is not required or relevant for the services they are offering. Delete unused apps on your internet-connected devices and keep them secure by performing regular updates.
- Manage your privacy settings. Check the privacy and security settings for your web services and apps and set them to your comfort level for information sharing. Each device, application or browser you use will have different features to limit how and with whom you share information.
- Do not click on unfamiliar links. Whether at home or at work, avoid clicking links from unfamiliar sources or in unexpected correspondence. One mistake can infect a whole computer or an entire business.
- If you collect it, protect it. Data breaches can not only lead to great financial loss, but also damage to reputation and customer trust. Follow reasonable security measures to keep individuals’ personal information safe from inappropriate and unauthorized access. Make sure the personal data you collect is processed in a fair manner and only collected for relevant and legitimate purposes.
- Consider adopting a privacy framework. Build privacy into your business by researching and adopting a privacy framework to help you manage risk and create a culture of privacy in your organization. The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of BC offers a step-by-step guide to help businesses develop tailored privacy management programs.
- Conduct an assessment of your data collection practices. Understand your business' obligations under the Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA) and educate your employees about the requirements to protect personal information.
- Transparency builds trust. Be open and honest about how you collect, use and share consumers’ personal information. Think about how the consumer may expect their data to be used and design settings to protect their information by default. Remember that privacy is good for business, so communicate clearly and concisely to the public what privacy means to your organization and the steps you take to achieve and maintain it.
- Keep tabs on your vendors and partners. Remember that if someone provides services on your behalf, you are also responsible for how they collect and use your consumers’ personal information.