Rebecca Herold

The Privacy Professor's
Tips of the

All You Need Is Love

If only that were true! Unfortunately, the world requires a bit more from us, especially when it comes to where we place our trust.

While protecting your privacy isn't the most romantic of ideas, it remains an important priority for February. Warm-fuzzies are dispersed and guards are dropped, all in the name of celebrating love.


Below are a few privacy trends and tips you can apply to your own life or maybe even share with your Valentines this month.

Tomorrow is Data Privacy Day 


I was thrilled to receive word that the governor of my home state of Iowa has declared Jan. 28, 2012, to be Data Privacy Day in Iowa for the third year in a row. The date coincides with International Data Privacy Day and is designed to encourage more people to take steps to protect their personal information.
Tomorrow, devote 30 minutes to protecting yourself and your privacy. Here are a few quick ideas:
  • Double check your privacy settings inside popular social media sites, like Facebook. NOTE: Timeline will soon be forced on all Facebook users!  Know how to protect your privacy during these changes. If you don't, you will likely have posts that were once protected now exposed to the world.
  • Encrypt the data on your hard drives and mobile computers, such as iPads, smartphones and laptops. There are many good, easy-to-use options available. I'll post some to my blog in February to help you chose. 
  • Secure your home and office wireless connections. See the site I created last year for Data Privacy Day, SecureYourWireless.Org, for information about this.
  • Invest in an inexpensive cross-shredder to use on your financial and other sensitive documents. I'll post information about these to my blog in February also. 

Remember, Nothing's Free

A Facebook scam continues to tempt people into falling for it. Offering two free tickets from Southwest Airlines, the scammers persuade Facebook users to spread the false offer on their own walls.


This, of course, lends an air of legitimacy to the trick, as most people trust their "friends."



Classify this one in the too-good-to-be-true category and scroll past. Whatever you do, do not investigate by clicking on the post!


Who Could Be Tracking You?


Did you know there are smartphone apps designed to track the whereabouts of people?


All someone needs is five minutes alone with your smartphone to download a tracking application and hide it among the rest of your apps. From that moment on, they are aware of your every location - or at least that of your phone.

I can only imagine how many romantic surprises will be ruined this year by sneaky spouses and significant others getting more information than they bargained for this Valentine's Day.


Here are five other ways someone may be tracking you. 


 Jumping to Conclusions with Video

When hotel video captured two employees in what appeared to be a celebratory moment, authorities made an assumption. In case you hadn't heard, I'm talking about the case of French politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn, accused of assaulting a hotel maid.

Because the video was recorded only moments after police were called to the hotel, some authorities assumed the employees were involved in a scheme and were celebrating the first phase of their plot to end Strauss-Khan's presidential ambitions. As a result, the case against Strauss-Khan was dropped.

Video surveillance is a crucial component to maintaining safety, solving crimes and arguably even deterring crime. Yet, the conclusions that can be drawn from tiny moments captured on video, out of context of the full situation, can have a devastating impact on anyone's personal or professional life.

Even stoplight and speeding ticket cameras can give authorities the wrong idea. While they may indeed capture video of your car speeding through a red light, it may very well be someone else behind the wheel. 

Your Not-So-Secret Password

Every day, millions of people create accounts on millions of websites. The sites range from online banking to social media, from photo sharing to online pharmacies.



Some developers of these sites have found a way to make the sign-up process easier by allowing new users to sign up using their Facebook, Twitter and other accounts. Because opting in to this type of sign up is so simple, many people do it.


What they may not realize is that they have now shared their social media and/or email passwords with several entities. While those organizations may not proactively use those passwords for their own nefarious activities, they may not be taking all the necessarily security steps to protect them from hackers or other inappropriate use. 

My best tip for passwords is this: If you don't want to maintain a large number of different passwords for each site, establish a set of passwords based upon the types of sites you're using.  For example, use one password for the set of social network sites you use. Use a different password for your email accounts, and a different password for your sites where you do financials transactions (such as banks, credit card companies, etc.). 


Make sure your passwords are GOOD passwords! They should be a combination of numbers, letters and, if possible, special characters. And it's worth repeating: Never use the same passwords on your financial sites as you do with your email or social media accounts.  

One final reminder about passwords: Remember to change them frequently. My own Facebook password was possibly compromised after a friend posted a video to my wall that looked legitimate. Because I knew the friend well, I clicked it. I quickly realized it was not a legitimate link and changed my password right away. Thankfully, I caught it before any real damage was done.


Election Year Probably Puts Privacy on Back Burner 

Because we are in an election year, it's unlikely we'll see much in terms of new data privacy legislation.


Yet, one politician is continuing to fight the good fight, co-writing bills and requiring organizations to explain themselves with regard to the tracking data they are collecting. That's Minnesota Senator Al Franken. In fact, the senator spoke about privacy and the need for related legislation at January's IAPP KnowledgeNet meeting in Minnesota.


Remember to write or call your legislators to remind them of the importance of protecting your personal information and privacy. Perhaps next year you can encourage your state governor to officially declare Data Privacy Day, too!


Have a safe, secure and sweet February!



A Champion for Privacy!


The National Cyber Security alliance has put together a list of privacy proponents at StaySafeOnline.org, and I am thrilled to have made the list. What an honor to be named a Data Privacy Day Champion!


Here are a few other recent activities I've participated in that you may find useful:

Mari Frank, a lawyer and an identity theft victim who has written many books on the topic, has a fabulous radio show about privacy! I encourage you to tune in to learn more about current privacy topics. I always enjoy being on her show, and had a chance to speak with her before the end of the year.  You can hear my conversation with her online.
I also recently enjoyed participating in a round table discussion of risk and privacy with three other experts in the field from the U.S. State Department, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the BITS Financial Services Roundtable. You can read and hear this 2-part discussion here and here.

Rebecca Herold & Associates, LLC
Mobile: 515.491.1564, Business: 515.996.2199