A Reflection on Data Privacy Day

Last week I attended an event in San Francisco hosted by the Churchill Club on the topic of location and privacy that featured several prominent experts in the areas of location privacy.  Also this past Friday was Data Privacy Day, an annual event celebrated on January 28 to raise awareness of data privacy issues that impact both individuals and companies.

One of the issues that I spend quite a bit of my time on here at AT&T is the issue of cyber security.  These two events got me thinking about the intersection between data privacy and security.  Privacy and security go hand in hand in that as we share more information online in our daily lives we are dependent upon the entire internet ecosystem to help ensure that we stay safe online. 

This can range from the sites we interact with to ensure that they have employed the latest security tools to help prevent a data breach, to our own personal responsibility to ensure that we take adequate steps to help protect ourselves and consider the consequences of the information we share online.

Unfortunately this is an area where there’s plenty of work to be done.  According to a recent post on the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) blog, the NCSA/VISA Inc. 2010 National Small Business Study found that “65% of small businesses store customer data, 43% store financial records, 33% store credit card information and 20% have intellectual property and other sensitive corporate content online.” But while they’re storing sensitive consumer data, “nearly 50% of these same small businesses believe the time and money spent to fully secure their business is not justified by the threat of cybercrime. And 85% of small business owners believe they are less of a cybercrime target than large companies.”

Consumers don’t fare much better. A study released last August by the NCSA and the Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG) noted that 90% of consumers want to learn more about “keeping safer” on the Internet. When asked as to why they don’t always do the things they can to surf more safely, 28% of Americans said they simply lacked the information or knowledge – more than double the number that said online safety was “too expensive.”

Moreover, as I mentioned on AT&T’s policy blog in September, cyber criminals increasingly exploit user carelessness and naïveté using techniques such as a social engineering where attackers go after end users directly, attempting to trick them into downloading malware or into divulging sensitive information.


While many of us have an idea that the threat is out there – almost all of us can recount recent news about one Internet scam or another – the hard part is figuring out what to do about it.  The current administration recognizes the need for better awareness and education.  In October, White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Howard Schmidt unveiled a new national cybersecurity awareness campaign called STOP THINK CONNECT which is intended to answer the President’s call for the creation of a national public awareness campaign that would achieve for cybersecurity what the “Smokey Bear” campaign did for forest fire prevention.

For more than a year, NCSA, the Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG) and the Department of Homeland Security, along with members of industry (including AT&T), other government agencies and non-profit organizations worked closely to develop uniform, simple easy-to-understand actionable message that consumers can employ to protect themselves online.  Here is a link to a post I did back in October that includes a short video clip with NCSA executive director Michael Kaiser discussing STOP THINK CONNECT.

Thus as we pass data privacy day I want to remind everyone to STOP THINK CONNECT and ensure that we have all taken steps to safeguard ourselves online.

For more information about STOP THINK CONNECT including tips on how to stay safe online go to .   AT&T shares a variety of consumer online safety information on its Smart Controls website: http://www.att.net/smartcontrols, for small business at http://smallbiz.att.com/OSB/Manage-Technology/Security.page? and on the AT&T Tech Channel at http://techchannel.att.com/ .  For more information about Data Privacy Day and AT&T’s view on privacy check out our policy blog at http://attpublicpolicy.com/.

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