Consider data privacy in pursuit of lower costs at the gas pump advises Better Business Bureau
As the price of a gallon of gas skyrockets, millions of Americans are turning everywhere they can to save money at the pump. For some, that means signing up for mobile apps, like GasBuddy or Gas Guru. But how many of them consider what information they are sharing in the pursuit of a lower bill?
Data privacy continues to be one of the biggest concerns for both consumers and business owners, and for good reason: It has never been more important to secure your information. However, consumers rarely consider what they provide to companies during the sign-up process. Many mobile apps request access to personal information, including geographic location, contact lists and photo albums before unlocking services. Location data is particularly valuable to advertisers, not least of which because it’s personally identifiable. That information can then be shared with other location-data brokers to leverage.
Most consumers don’t even know they’ve agreed to these terms by signing up for an account.
In general, the Federal Trade Commission recommends privacy policies for most websites that collect and share consumer data. But laws differ from place to place and depending on what data you collect. In the United States, federal laws require privacy policies for businesses collecting sensitive data, such as personal information from children under 13, protected health information, or information collected to provide certain financial products or services (e.g., loans, investment advice, insurance) to consumers. But some states have their own requirements for privacy policies.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) and the National Cyber Security Alliance offer the following tips to help secure the privacy of critical information:
• Share with care. Posts on social media last a long time. Consider who will see the post, how it might be perceived by readers, and what information it might reveal about the individual posting it.
• Manage privacy settings. Check the privacy and security settings on web services and apps and set them to your comfort level for information sharing. Each device, application or browser used will have different features to limit how and with whom you share information.
• Personal info is like money: Value it. Protect it. Personal information, such as purchase history, IP address, or location, has tremendous value to businesses – just like money. Make informed decisions about whether or not to share data with certain businesses by considering the amount of personal information they are asking for and weighing it against the benefits you may receive in return.
• Make your passwords long and strong. Use long passwords with a combination of upper- and lower-case letters, numbers, and symbols – eight characters for most accounts, twelve characters for email and financial accounts. Don't use the same password for multiple accounts, especially email and financial. Keep a paper list of your passwords in a safe place, not on or near your computer. Consider using a password vault application. See BBB's tips for creating a strong password at bbb.org.
• Keep tabs on apps. Be thoughtful about who gets your information and be wary of apps that require access to information that is not required or relevant for the services they are offering. Delete unused apps on your internet-connect devices and keep others secure by performing updates.
• Lock down your login. For your online accounts, use the strongest authentication tools available. Your usernames and passwords are not enough; consider two-factor authentication for key accounts like email, banking, and social media, especially for access on mobile devices.
• Don't click on unfamiliar links. Whether at home or at work, don't click on links from unfamiliar sources or unexpected correspondence. One false click can infect a whole computer ... or a whole business.
If you have questions regarding a charity appeal, or other concerns surrounding data privacy, check with BBB at (800) 856-2417 or visit our website at BBB.org.