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Privacy and Passwords


Privacy and Data Protection


Privacy means different things to different people. To some it is the right to be left alone. To others it's protecting their personal information and not sharing secrets. Sometimes it means deciding who has access to what information about you and what they can do with it. And to everyone, it means you have or should have control over some things about you, without having to share them at all.


The laws that govern privacy and related human rights range from state, provincial and federal constitutions or charters of rights, the Magna Carta, data protection laws and regulations, statutes, common law to contractual rights and consumer protection.


Typically, privacy laws cover sensitive information (racial, religious, union membership, governmental benefits information, victimization records, school records, etc.), financial information (social security numbers or social insurance numbers, bank account and credit card information, credit histories and creditworthiness, etc.), health information (insurance, health records, disabilities, risks, family health records, etc.) and personal information collected from or about children (which may cover minors, typically 18 or under, or preteens, or youth under the age of fourteen, depending on the jurisdiction and country).


Information collected about us online generally falls into one of three types: personally identifiable information ("PII, "where it can be tracked back to you and tied to your real name, contact information etc.), generic information (which removes all personally identifiable information and just stores the general information, such as gender, age, state or town you live in, etc.) and profile information (that may tie to your online identity, but doesn't disclose who you are in real life).


Privacy - Understanding the US Legal Structure Around Privacy


US Constitutional Issues


In addition to the First Amendment, the Fourth Amendment and Fifth Amendment of the US Constitution apply differently to students in a public school. The requirements of keeping students safe and under control in its joint educational and in loco parentis roles are balanced against the students' civil rights, limiting the rights that would apply were they adults in a non-school setting. That means, in simple terms, that schools have greater authority over students than other governmental agencies do, such as police. But even then, their authority is not absolute. Finding that line is not always easy. But schools need to find it to avoid getting sued and violating students' civil rights. Visit WiredSafety's Schools section to learn more about this important issue.


Privacy Rights


Common Law Rights of Privacy


There are privacy statutes, data regulations, constitutional rights and common law rights that govern privacy around the world. Each is basicly built on the concept that certain things are given greater legal privacy protect than others. In the US we focus on keeping the government out of our personal affairs. In Europe, it's allowing the government, but limiting commercial access. The differences are probably based on the difference in social programs, such as governmental health benefits in Europe.


It can be helpful to look at US common laws on privacy which, although not recognized by all states, serve as the underpinning of many privacy expectations. Privacy common laws recognize the following:


  • Intrusion on seclusion (having someone interrupt your physical privacy);

  • False light (true facts combined in such a way to lead other to a false conclusion);

  • Public disclosure of private facts (informational privacy); and

  • Right of publicity (or identity) that covers impersonation and commercial use of your name or image without authorization.


They were always recognized as the core privacy rights because of the likelihood of harm caused by their violation. They are a good place to start when considering sensitive data classifications and its treatment. To learn more about sensitive data and information read Parry Aftab's articles on She is an Internet privacy and security lawyer, as well as the Executive Director of WiredSafety.


Passwords – The Route of Most Cyber-Evil


Most of our children (and we do too) choose passwords based on “20 Questions.” They use the same 20 questions to come up with their passwords, like their middle name, their pet’s name, their birth date,

the town they live in, their favorite movie, their best friend’s name, the car they want to drive, the year they graduate, the college they want to attend, etc. The problem is that these are easy to guess for anyone who knows them pretty well. Just think about how many of these you could answer about your friends and others in your family members. And if you can guess theirs, they can probably guess yours too unless you are careful. And since most cyberbullying happens among classmates and acquaintances, they are vulnerable to their frenemies taking over and accessing their online accounts, sometimes posing as them to get them into trouble.


Security experts tell you to use a password with upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. That might be good for security experts, but it’s really hard to remember. So, you have to write it down or stick it on a post-it sheet on your monitor to remember. That’s not very secure, though.


Instead, use a sentence with a number in it. You start it with a capital letter and end it with punctuation (a symbol!). Upper case, lower case, numbers and a symbol. Easy to remember and hard to guess. You can use the site name in the sentence and you’ll have what security experts suggest, a different password for each site that is secure and easy to remember. “Facebook has more than 1 billion users!” Holy cow! (And it’s a pretty good password once you leave out the spaces.)


Or choose something only you would know, that is easy for you to remember and no one else can guess (even and especially your children). Choose your favorite character in a book and how old you were when you first read that book, or the best birthday present you ever got and how old you were when you got it. That gives you numbers and letters and is easy for you to remember, but hard for others to guess. Get it?


More than 85% of elementary school students and 70% of teens polled said that they had shared their passwords with at least one friend (often their boyfriend or girlfriend). That’s one friend too many, especially when friends get into fights or couples breakup. It’s not smart since when armed with their secrets and your passwords, your children’s friends can do some serious damage.


Don’t click “save my login and password” when using a computer that anyone else can access. And logout of your accounts when leaving your work computer untended, even and especially at home.

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