Today, the 28th of January 2011, marks the European Privacy and Data Protection Day.  In a time when our online privacy is being eroded by the use of social networks and companies and governments continue to store our personal details in ever increasing databases, today is a day to reflect on how your use of the Internet and social networks impacts on your privacy.

In today’s Irish Times Karlin Lillington has an excellent piece on privacy and the impact various government legislation has on it.  Indeed, earlier this week the Data Protection Commissioner’s office also issued a warning to politicians that they must respect people’s privacy when canvasing and not send unsolicited emails or texts unless they have gained the person’s permission. 

However, the worrying message from the above is that people seem to have little or no awareness of their right to privacy or the impact infringes to that right can have on their lives.  This can be seen by how much personal information people voluntarily give to social media networks such as Twitter and FaceBook.  It is also exemplified by the acceptance of greater and greater government monitoring of people’s activities all in the name of security.

I accept that governments need to be able to access certain information to investigate or prevent illegal activities it much be done in a balanced manner.  It is important the the rights of the individual are not impinged or trod and that appropriate controls and judicial oversight are in place.

Yesterday, saw the release of Privacy International’s European Privacy and Human Rights report for 2010 which highlighted a worrying trend in the increase in surveillance within countries within the EU.  In particular Ireland came under a lot of criticism.

HelpNet Security magazine has an excellent overview of the report together with some of my thoughts on the matter.

It is also worth noting the below privacy map published by the Forrester Group highlighting how different countries respect the privacy of their citizens.

 FaceBook announced this week that they will now provide secure web browsing using HTTPS for all activity within their social network which should protect individuals from having their information compromised by someone monitoring their network traffic.

So on today of all days perhaps you should go and check your privacy settings within your FaceBook user profile and with the upcoming elections you should take the opportunity to quiz your local candidates on their stance regarding our right to privacy.

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