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It’s Data Privacy Day, and It’s a Mess

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Target continues to be tangled up in chains due to its December 2013 data breach that current estimates say affected 110 million customers.

Target is known as proficient and prolific in the use of mobile devices and other means for collecting consumer data. This proficiency has backfired, resulting in the retail giant struggling to regain consumer trust and brand name reputation, not to mention figuring out how this mess happened in the first place and how to prevent a repeat performance.

  • Was there a lapse in Target’s IT security?
  • Did “Big Data” go too far and get way too ahead of security?

And let’s not put all the focus on Target, either. What happened with Target is a sign of the times and perhaps a sign of things to come in this world of cyber transactions. The questions above should also be asked of Facebook, Google, Yahoo and others who waited until the fiasco involving Edward Snowden’s NSA scandal to better encrypt their user data.

Big Data is like a drug; so addictive you can’t get off it, and of course, a huge potential for danger. Companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter love to sell consumers’ data to advertisers—this is how these giants stay giants; otherwise, they’d shrink into nothing. And there’s no end in sight with Big Data. Big Data is on course to become the Big Bang Data—to forever expand consumers’ personal information into cyber space.

But all of these entities—retailers, social media, the government—need to take responsibility for what they’re doing with our data.

Just when you thought that your privacy couldn’t be violated any more, Big Data has now spread its tentacles into the realm of selling lists of sexual assault victims, people with AIDS and HIV, and seniors with dementia to marketers. The World Privacy Forum, in the midst of researching how data brokers gather up and sell consumers’ private information, discovered these lists, and unfortunately, there are more disturbing list categories that were uncovered. Marketers are actually purchasing this kind of data to target shoppers from every which way.

When are lawmakers going to catch up to Big Data and grab it by the horns?

In the meantime, consumers need to take control of their information online; it just takes one hacker to wreak havoc. Here are 6 tips every consumer should take to stay protected online.

#1 Install/update your devices antivirus, antispyware, antiphishing and firewall.

#2 Update your devices operating system ensuring the critical security patches are current.

#3 Password protect your devices and use strong passwords with upper/lower case, numbers and characters. Never use the same password twice.

#4 Protect your wireless communications from prying eyes with a virtual private network that encrypts your data. Hotspot Shield masks your IP address and prevents data leakage.

#5 Limit your exposure on social networks. Consider what you post and how it can be used against you by criminals, predators and your government.

#6 Before giving out your name, address, phone, email, or account numbers consider how it will be used and read the services terms of service and privacy policies.

Robert Siciliano is an Identity Theft Expert to Hotspot Shield VPN. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen See him discussing internet and wireless security on Good Morning America. Disclosures.

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