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Online Privacy and Your Digital Footprint


privacynoun pri·va·cy | \ˈprī-və-sēplural privacies definition:

  1. the state of being apart from other people or concealed from their view; solitude; seclusion.
  2. the state of being free from unwanted or undue intrusion or disturbance in one's private life or affairs;freedom to be let alone. See also invasion of privacy.
  3. freedom from damaging publicity, public scrutiny, secret surveillance, or unauthorized disclosure of one’s personal data or information, as by a government, corporation, or individual.
  4. the state of being concealed; secrecy.

Data privacy / Information privacy

Internet technologies make it very easy to collect all kinds of information about us, from sources like:

Source: Wikipedia


Big Data projects - large collections of data elements from many different sources - make it easy for government agencies, advertisers, corporations, private investigators and individual to put together a lot of personal information about us, to target us and to track our actions. Data mining and data analytics are big businesses today.

Students' Privacy

When you are a student, existing laws give some privacy protection for portions of your student record and contact information, through the Family Education Right to Privacy Act (FERPA). Students in grades k-12 in California also have some protections under the state Student Online Personal Information Protection Act (SOPIPA). Those laws apply to how schools are required to handle your information, but they do not automatically protect you from hacking or data theft.

Privacy Preferences

The San Jose Public Library's Virtual Privacy Lab points out that:

"People are comfortable with different levels of privacy in different aspects of their lives. Some want to keep their work and personal lives separate, while others want to avoid government monitoring or prevent corporations from using their data for profit. Some people want to restrict who sees their personal information as much as possible while on the other hand, some are not at all concerned about privacy and freely volunteer their information if it’s convenient or beneficial to them.

To maintain your own privacy and to respect the wishes of others, it’s important to think and talk about privacy preferences and to apply that thinking proactively when you use technology, for example by reviewing privacy settings. Knowing about how online information sharing works, and what the potential consequences can be, will help you make informed choices about privacy.".

Identity Theft

Some clues that you're the victim of identity theft - or might be - are:

  • Lost or stolen credit cards or ID cards
  • Withdrawals from your bank account that you can’t explain
  • Credit card expenses you don't remember (or your credit account is maxxed out)
  • Missed bills (or other mail you expect)
  • Businesses refuse your checks
  • Notice that a new account has been opened in your name (but you didn't request that)
  • Notice that your information was compromised by a data breach at a company where you do business or have an account.

What can you do if you suspect identity theft?

  • Contact the companies involved ASAP, and close accounts if possible,
  • Place a fraud alert.
  • Get copies of your credit report (and report fraud to them, if you're certain that happened).
  • Report the fraud to the FTC & local police.


For more information, see: