Data Privacy Day

Data Privacy Day

UD Celebrates Data Privacy Day on Jan. 28

The University of Delaware, alongside more than 300 other organizations worldwide, will be celebrating Data Privacy Day on Sunday, Jan. 28. Data Privacy Day is an annual, international effort to create awareness about the importance of respecting privacy, safeguarding data and enabling trust.

Awareness of data privacy is crucial in a world where data is constantly being collected and distributed among people, devices and services. People voluntarily share their personal data through social media accounts, rewards programs and other applications, often without considering how that information may be re-shared or used. For example, many people list their birthday, address and other personal information on their profile pages, but leave this information publicly available rather than limiting it to their friends and family. In extreme cases, a hacker could trawl someone’s profiles for information that could be used to answer security questions (the name of their high school or pet) or craft a spear phishing message tailored to their victim.

For the sake of convenience, many people link their social media accounts to other applications to avoid creating new accounts and passwords. But the convenience comes with risk. Many of these apps will demand access to the contacts, biographic data, posts, photos, and other information in the linked profile, not all of which may be necessary. And if one account gets hacked, it’s possible that the linked accounts could also be compromised.

Especially now, in the era of smart devices, there are plenty of new ways your data can be gathered and shared.

In early December, the Commission Nationale Informatique et Libertes, a French data privacy watchdog, warned customers against purchasing a smart doll that had serious security vulnerabilities. The doll and its corresponding smartphone app could be hacked to record conversations from up to nine feet away as well as make the doll to speak back to the child with off-script messages. Conversations containing names, addresses, and other private information were sent to and stored in the cloud and were accessible to hackers.

With these kinds of stories circulating, people can end up feeling like their data is never safe. Often, people believe they have very little control over their data and that they have neither the time nor the resources to protect themselves. Some may even believe that maintaining privacy is futile in a time where data breaches are inevitable.

“There’s a phenomenon called ‘data breach fatigue’. A few years ago, a major company like Home Depot or TJ Maxx would have a breach and it would be a big deal on the news. Now, we hear about it all the time and people just consider it a normal aspect of business,” said John D’Arcy, professor in Management Information Systems.

Half of the battle in protecting personal data is being aware of threats. Ultimately, people have control over how their personal information is collected and shared.

Despite a general public tendency towards “data breach fatigue”, UD students are demonstrating greater awareness of personal privacy and online security.

“The awareness trend among students is very positive,” observes Starnes Walker, founder of the UD Cybersecurity Initiative — a partnership between UD, federal, state and private sector organizations that helps address the growing need for cybersecurity research and a security-literate workforce. “There is is always something happening in the world: breaches of data, loss of personally identifiable information, credit card theft—each of these things are given a high visibility for students to say, ‘I need to know something about this no matter what career I take.’”

According to Walker, protecting personal information just takes a little bit of common sense.

“Breaches and other security incidents are the result of not updating operating systems, not practicing good cyber hygiene, and clicking on things you shouldn’t have,” Walker explains.

Data privacy boils down to common sense. Most people would be skeptical if a stranger came up to them and asked for their name, address, date of birth, and Social Security number. The trick is to exercise the same skepticism for companies, social networks, and smart products.

Ideally, says D’Arcy, people refine and rely on this instinct to produce an “automatic response to deal with the threat. They don’t have to stop and make a conscious decision.”

Here are a few tips for protecting personal data:

  • Check the privacy and sharing settings on social media accounts. Make sure that posts, pictures, and the personal information are visible only to the intended audience.
  • Understand how companies will use data. AI assistants, smart toys, social media, and rewards programs all collect data. Understand what they’ll do with it before agreeing to give it to them.
  • Don’t give out personal information unless absolutely necessary. The best way to protect personal information is to be selective about why, when, how, and with whom it is shared.

Additional resources for protecting your personal data on social media, e-commerce websites and browsers are available at Stay Safe Online.

Data Privacy Day began in 2008 and was founded by The National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA), who also leads the annual National Cyber Security Awareness Month in October.

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UD meets University of Tsukuba

UD meets University of Tsukuba

University of Delaware data scientists host researchers from Japan

In preparation for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, researchers in Japan are developing new programs in data science, smart cities, cybersecurity, and the Internet of Things. As part of this effort, researchers at Japan’s University of Tsukuba are partnering with researchers from the University of Delaware to establish a joint research center and program focusing on smart cities through data science, math and computing.

“A major aim of the center is to facilitate the faculty and student research and exchanges between the two universities,” said Nii Attoh-Okine, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at UD. The 2020 Olympics will be “like a working lab” to implement smart cities paradigms developed through the collaboration, said Attoh-Okine. “It will also provide validation and calibration of the models.”

On Nov. 16, four representatives from the University of Tsukuba visited UD for a joint workshop, but the partnership has been in the works for a while. Earlier this year, UD was one of a select group of universities invited to give a presentation on data sciences at the Japanese Embassy in Washington, DC. UD is launching an initiative in Data Sciences, the collection and analysis of large datasets. This work is already happening at many UD research centers, such as the Center for Applications of Mathematics in Medicine, Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, and the Institute for Financial Services Analytics. Plans are under way for more programs.

“Data Sciences is a critical area of expanding work at the University of Delaware that crosses multiple disciplines,” said Ken Barner, chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at UD and Charles Black Evans Professor of Electrical Engineering. “Partnering with leading institutions such as the University of Tsukuba accelerates and broadens UD’s Data Sciences impact.”

At the Nov. 16 workshop, Babatunde Ogunnaike, dean of the College of Engineering and William L. Friend Chair of Chemical Engineering, noted that the activity resulting from this collaboration will cross academic disciplines. “The problems that are significant—the problems that constitute the grand challenges of our time—they do not carry disciplinary labels. They transcend what an individual, or even a university by itself, can do.”

That’s why it’s important to collaborate with other universities with complementary expertise.

Visitors from the University of Tsukuba included Tetsuya Sakurai, director of the Center for Artificial Intelligence Research; Hiroaki Shiokawa, assistant professor at the Center for Computational Sciences; Taka-Aki Sato, director of the R&D Center for Precision Medicine; and Tsuyoshi Matsumoto, associate professor of the Research and Development Center for Sport Innovation.

Sakurai, Shiokawa, Sato and Matsumoto gave talks on their research areas.

“Tsukuba is a science city,” explained Sakurai. About 45 minutes by train from downtown Tokyo, Tsukuba is a vibrant home to many national research institutes. The University of Tsukuba’s Center for Artificial Intelligence Research was started in April. Scientists there do fundamental research on areas like big data and encryption and applied research in areas such as healthcare and medical research.

“One of our missions is to promote and to facilitate joint projects between fundamental research and applied research, also governmental entities, industries, and so on,” he said. “So we are a gateway for interdisciplinary research at the University of Tsukuba.”

Several UD professors also gave presentations, including Attoh-Okine; Gonzalo Arce, Charles Black Evans Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering; Benjamin Bagozzi, assistant professor of political science and international relations; Doug Doren, professor of chemistry and biochemistry; Delphis Levia, professor of ecohydrology.

In a roundtable discussion, participants discussed collaboration opportunities.

The next meeting will take place at the University of Tsukuba.

 | Photo by Kathy F. Atkinson |