Protecting your data in 2021

At its best, data can inform our decision making in everything from our health, to what we buy, to who we date and more.

At its worst, this information can be shared and abused by others. So how do you keep your information safe when we’re generating data all the time? Here are some simple tips to keep in mind.

Going Phishing

In the early days of the internet, email scams promising millions of dollars in return for sending your Social Security number to an exiled king seemed easy to spot.

Today, however, phishing attempts remain common and often are more cleverly disguised. Outside parties can assume the identity of trusted friends, co-workers, employers and more.

You should never email identifying information like birthdates, Social Security numbers or account numbers. If you suspect the “friend” emailing you might not be who they claim, mark the email as spam for personal accounts or report to your IT department for work accounts.

If you are unsure of the validity of the email, a quick call to your friend or colleague can confirm without putting your data at risk.

It’s not just email

Many of us enjoy fun memes or games on social media but they often are not as innocent as they appear.

The next time you see a post asking you to “remember a beloved pet who’s no longer with us” or “share the first car you took down a backroad,” think carefully about where this post is coming from.

There are pages across Facebook, Twitter and other sites that create these memes in hopes of collecting data that often are used as passwords or security question answers. As thousands of people pass the question around their social networks, this information can potentially be collected and used in attempts to steal your identity.

Understand what you can control

As you become more aware of these attempts to access your data, it is important to recognize that many of the tools and services we already use have that access and the power to share it with third parties.

This lies behind the power of targeted ads, like when you search a restaurant a friend recommended and for the next week all your streaming platforms, social media channels and the websites you visit display ads for that restaurant and similar destinations.

While it is difficult to prevent all your data from being accessed and shared by providers like Google and Apple, there are some things you can do to limit their access and protect yourself from outside attacks:

• Only visit websites with an “https” designation. This means the site is secure, offering an extra layer of protection from attackers. It is especially important when using public wi-fi like at the airport, a shop or elsewhere.

• Add dual authentication when offered. Many banks and other services now offer a two-step sign in process where you enter your password and then enter a code sent to your device. This helps ensure only you can access your accounts.

• Check your privacy and internet-based ad settings on your devices and other accounts. provides easy to follow instructions on how to do this for many popular sites.