Keeping your personal information safe online

Posted at 10:43 AM, Jan 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-26 10:53:14-05

NORFOLK, Va. - It seems as though it's nearly impossible to get by without technology these days. With smartphones and social media, people leave a digital footprint nearly everywhere they go.

While it's necessary to stay connected, there are ways to protect yourself and your information.

During Data Privacy Week, the Virginia Information Technologies Agency (VITA) and Virginia’s Office of Data Governance and Analytics (ODGA) are encouraging all Virginians to learn about online privacy and to manage their personal information and keep it secure.

Michael Watson, VITA's Chief Information Security Officer, said you should weigh the costs and benefits before handing over your personal information.

"That's part of the challenge - is knowing once you give somebody your information, once you give somebody your data, where is it that it's going to stop, right? You know, if I give my information to a clothing retailer, I don't want to get calls about my car insurance based off of, you know, something that I gave to retailers that I did want to do business with," Watson said.

To avoid this, Watson said give retailers another birthday on keep on file so if it gets sold, your real information won't match up.

This also goes for any new apps that you sign up for that ask for your contact list, photos, and more. If you do decide to use an app or set up a new account, check the privacy and security settings and set them to your comfort level for information sharing.

Watson said it's also important to make strong passwords and set up multi-factor authentication.

"Because once you do that it has built-in password changes, you don't have to change it nearly as frequently because they can't do anything without your device," he said.

When it comes to passwords, Watson said there are safe apps that store your most sensitive passwords. One of the most important passwords to remember, he said, is your email because you can always reset passwords for other accounts through your email.

VITA said businesses and organizations should respect the privacy of consumers and be transparent about how their personal information is being collected, stored and shared.

Once consumers are aware of what information they are generating online, they can be better positioned to safeguard their data.