Data Privacy Day

Data Privacy Day began in the United States and Canada in January 2008 as an extension of the Data Protection Day celebration in Europe. At UIS, we want to help students, faculty and staff focus on privacy in your daily lives and what you can do to protect your data.

Below are some simple “Did You Know?” questions with steps you can take to safeguard yourself.

Did you know cell phones track your location and that data can be accessed by companies?

Cell phones are great at providing directions and recommendations for restaurants nearby. To do this they use GPS and poll your phone every few minutes. Most cell phone makers (Google, Apple, Samsung, etc.) along with cellular providers (AT&T, Verizon, etc.) keep a record of this data. Individual mobile apps and even games, if GPS permissions are given, can also track this data. In many cases there are no limits to how long this data can be stored or shared.

What You Can Do: Review your location data. If appropriate delete your historical data. Review which apps can access your phone’s GPS features and consider if you want to provide this history of your daily movement to them.



Did you know in many cases “deleted” social media is not deleted?

Any social media post that is public, is often indexed by third parties including researchers, media, and government entities. Even after deleting content the content can be retained.  Other social media companies claiming “private messaging” are sometimes found to not be private or anonymous.  Before sending that private message check your platform and consider if you really want to send it.

What You Can Do: Rethink the messages and content you share publicly. Recognize that not all “deleted” messages are deleted.

Review apps that offer ‘secure’ messaging to see if their platform has been endorsed by a trusted third party:

Did you know there are a specific privacy laws for your Health and Academic Records?

Lots of data that is generated about or around us is not protected by law. However, two areas have very good protections. One is student records which is covered by a law known as FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act).  The other is health records which is covered by a law known as HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). Both laws protect your privacy and allow you to review your records for accuracy. The University’s compliance can be found here:

What You Can Do: Review your medical and academic records for accuracy. If you store this type of data in the cloud (Google Drive, Box, Dropbox, OneDrive, etc.) review the vendor policy to ensure their storage is FERPA and/or HIPAA compliant.

Did you know many malware or viruses allow hackers to turn on webcams and microphones?

Many security professionals cover the cameras and safeguard access to their microphones. There are numerous exploits allow hackers to turn those devices on. This can be done often with no indicators. As an extra step of safety consider if you want to put a privacy guard over your webcam or microphone.

What You Can Do: Cover your webcam on your machines and double check which software and apps have access to your microphone.