Public and private organizations collect and publish data containing information about individuals. These data are analyzed to project market trends, implement efficient business operations, and create informed decisions in the allocation of resources in both governmental and non-governmental projects. On March 27, 2016, the website of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) of the Philippines was defaced and hacked. The breach also included the voter registration database. The whole database was made available by hackers online. The information that were leaked included: full names of the voters, addresses, passport identification numbers, and biometrics information such as fingerprints. Personal data breaches have not only been a concern for the Philippine government but also for private organizations and individual accounts as well. On September 22, 2016, Yahoo released a press statement validating the rumours regarding a data breach in Yahoo Mail in 2014. The data stolen may have included complete names, email addresses, telephone numbers, banking information, and credit card data. 

In Alberta, the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIP) is in place to ensure the protection of personal information by setting rules for data collection and release by public organizations. On the other hand, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) governs private organizations. Being aware of the laws and policies in places protecting your personal information is a start. But being careful of your day to day activities is the most effective way of keeping your personal information from people who would want to exploit it. Here are some of the things you should be careful of: 


Being Careless of Your Personal Contact Information

According to Norton, an internet security service provider, a hacker can contact a service provider for a transfer of service. Hackers try to acquire other personal data such as a photo of an ID and at least the last four digits of a social number. They also use personal information that can be easily searched online, such as the victim’s birth date, home address, or hobbies. They use this information to convince service providers of their identity. With access to your phone number, hackers can easily reset the passwords of your online accounts linked to it. To avoid this, keep your mobile numbers private and be aware of how your service provider protects access to your account. Another good practice is to avoid answering calls from unknown numbers. 


Buying from Unknown Online Sellers

Online scammers would sell items online cheaply to get your banking information. The first transaction would go smoothly. You would receive the product as advertised, encouraging you to purchase more from the seller or think that they are a legitimate business. Unknowing customers who do not check their credit card transactions regularly are the most vulnerable in this situation. These scammers would then start by using your bank information to purchase other items online with negligible amounts. A few dollars might seem to be harmless to an individual. But hackers do these with multiple accounts at the same time, accumulating thousands of dollars from unknowing people. When doing online transactions, make sure that you are buying from reputable retailers. Check online reviews and if the seller is legally registered. When using social media marketplaces, do not disclose sensitive banking information. 


Clicking Links Carelessly

You may have received emails with links directing you to fill out your user name and password. Then there are instances where the webpage seems to be genuine enough to believe. But there is a chance that these are just fake webpages that intend to get your login information. This type of exploit is known as phishing. So before clicking links, make sure that they are from a credible source. It is also a good idea to check if the web address of the webpage you are viewing has an (https) on it. A webpage with HTTPS or Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure means that the webpage is encrypted. Other than phishing, clicking links recklessly can also leave you vulnerable to malware and adware that can expose you to security risks. 

The ease of access to information can be as effective and efficient as it is vulnerable and susceptible to a data breach. Risks and security threats should not scare people. They should serve as a reminder that for every convenience technology offers, there would always be people who would take advantage of it. 




Ronald is a marketing communication specialist and a TEFL certified online educator. He enjoys reading novels and writing as a freelancer. He has an undergraduate degree in Organizational Communication and a master’s degree in Marketing Communication. He has also worked in the academe as a lecturer and consultant in the fields of Marketing and Communication Studies.