Privacy comes to the fore

GDPR may be more popular than Beyonce, but what exactly is it, and why would an acronym be garnering more attention on the internet than one of the world’s most popular pop stars? During the week of May 20th, Google Trends public search tool showed that people were searching more for GDPR than Beyonce, revealing just how curious people are about privacy laws in an increasingly interconnected, digital world.

What is GDPR?

GDPR stands for General Data Protection Regulation and is a piece of data privacy legislation in the EU that will come into play on May 25, 2018. It replaces a less stringent set of rules called the Data Protection Directive, in the hopes of giving consumers more control over their data as well as more visibility into how companies, such as Facebook and others, use their personal information.

“Although this affects companies in the European Union, it is something that people are curious about because there is a lot of talk in the media that this may be adopted by US companies to some extent, if concerns like the Cambridge Analytica and Facebook incident come to light again,” said Ellen Segriff, Head of Privacy, Cyber and Information Security for Wealth Management in the Americas, UBS.

“It definitely feels like there's a shift happening on a regulatory front, not just here in the States, but globally and specifically in Europe with GDPR,” said Kevin Dennean, CFA, Technology Equity Sector Strategist, UBS. “At the end of the day, consumers are going to have more information, more options around how their data is used, and that could cause a change in behavior, and it may cause a change in what sort of data, the quantity of data, the quality of the data that these large internet companies are allowed to share with their advertising partners. So we have to wait and see what happens there.”

Privacy comes to the fore

After The New York Times broke the story in March that a political data firm called Cambridge Analytica gained access to private information on more than 50 million Facebook users, the company came under fire for not having protected users enough. As a result, Facebook publicized changes to its data and privacy rules, saying that it would no longer allow third-party data for targeting ads and made it easier for users to find privacy tools.

Avoid oversharing

Segriff mentioned some ways that you can protect yourself on Facebook and beyond, including removing apps on the site, limiting access by apps that your network uses, turning on location privacy, as well as setting alerts and adding extra security measures in settings.

“I think it comes down to needing to be diligent and aware of what you post, who you add to your network and how much you share online generally,” she said. “The key piece of advice I tell everyone is to avoid oversharing on social media, period.”

Segriff said that broadly speaking, you should manage your social media activities. “In your profiles and posts, avoid publishing personal information such as your mother’s maiden name, or birthday,” she said. “I also tell people not to announce online if you’re going away to Tuscany or some glamorous vacation, because that opens you up to be burgled or at least have people know you won’t be home for a certain period of time.”

She also said to accept friend requests only from people you know, and only “follow,” not “friend” public figures or entities.

“I’d also be careful taking polls or quizzes online, as well as any apps that house these quizzes because they can access your account or data on your devices,” said Segriff.

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