2018 put the data economy on the map. It launched landmark privacy discussions, spurred new regulations and an influx of new technology solutions to protect sensitive information. 

If you are like most people, the 2018 data evolution has left you inundated with new, lengthy privacy ‘terms and conditions’ for all of your various apps and professional services. A study conducted by Carnegie Mellon University a few years ago found that the average person will encounter nearly 1,500 privacy policies in a year, and given the time that has passed since this study the number likely has grown in recent years.[1] So how many of those policies would you admit to reading thoroughly? None? You’re in the vast majority. 

Crossing your fingers and hoping for the best isn’t the best strategy for protecting your personal data. This is especially true with experts anticipating 2019 will be another year of change and innovation for the data economy.

Not to mention, the growing number of organizations – from your doctor to social networking apps – that continue to send new policies and make additional changes to service agreements, as businesses slowly catch up to new regulations and battle consumer uncertainty.

Just 8 percent of consumers strongly agree that they trust businesses to keep their personal information safe, according to a recent study by NTT DATA and Oxford Economics. Yet nearly 70 percent of consumers still willingly share their personal information with external parties and admit to taking few steps to protect it.[2] It’s clearly time to take charge of your data and ask yourself, “What am I agreeing to?” 

To help you navigate these policies, PNC’s security director, Susan Koski, recommends some simple steps to ensure you are taking the necessary precautions to protect yourself and more specifically, your personal information.

  • Read or at least skim the new policies you receive. Search for key phrases in the text like “marketing,” “control,” “waive” or “opt-out.” Some of these phrases can lead to key insights for how the company plans to use your information, or identify ways that you can update your personal privacy settings to limit what information is shared.
  • Be conscientious about the apps and websites that you frequent. If you don’t really use an app or a service, deactivate your account or stop sharing your personal information with the company. This limits who has your information and is potentially sharing it with third parties. Also, when downloading and installing a new application, consider whether that application should have access to services or applications on your phone such as location, pictures or contact lists.
  • Use a policy reading tool or vendor. There are several tools and companies available that will read through policies and decipher lengthy legalese to help you understand what you are agreeing to. It’s an easy way to spot any issues and ensure you are in control of your personal information.

"Consumers must be vigilant in understanding and limiting who has access to their personal data in this new data economy,” said Susan Koski, Security Director at PNC.

To effectively manage privacy, organizations and consumers should manage the confidentiality of data so that it is only utilized for the intended user at the intended time with the intended permissions.

It’s important to remember that these are just a few simple tips – not an exhaustive list – of the precautions you can take to protect yourself online. When it comes to your data security, ignorance isn’t bliss! Make sure you are doing your part to proactively keep yourself safe.

January 28th was Data Privacy Day, when the National Cyber Security Alliance raises awareness for current data privacy issues, while also educating consumers and businesses on privacy best practices. With cybersecurity technology and innovation efforts at the forefront of PNC’s strategy, we look to educate our customers and partners on this topic as well.