It seems like September is Big Breach Month these days. September 2017 held the first disclosure of the massive Equifax hack, and this September we heard about the largest Facebook hack ever. In fact, the September problem is probably why October is now National Cyber Security Awareness Month.
Therefore, in honor of the month, let’s discuss a lesser-addressed topic in cybersecurity: data privacy.
While we’re at it, let’s talk about how IT support and services companies can help keep your business protected.
This month, we have a truly in-depth piece for you. It’s a two-parter that highlights two recent data security news items, and, of course, we clarify how an IT services and support company can help you take back control of your data and systems.
Confused about data security and don’t have time to read a long, two-part blog? We’re sad because it’s a great article (if we do say so ourselves), but you can also get tips and info the fast and fun way. Reach out to Interplay for a helping hand from an internationally recognized IT services and support company right here in Seattle.
Now, let’s talk data privacy.
NPR recently reported on the Shiru Café, a coffee shop in Providence, R.I., which is where Brown University is located. The coffee shop only serves Brown University students and faculty and, while it will allow professors to pay for their coffee with cash, students have to surrender another form of payment: their personal data.
As Shiru Café puts it, students get “free” coffee in exchange for filling out an online form that gathers their:
Yup, this is exactly as creepy as it sounds.
A couple of Brown University students have already called for a boycott of the café, but they were largely unsuccessful. In fact, according to Shiru’s assistant manager, no student has ever refused to give up personal data in exchange for their free coffee. (We’re not sure about that claim by the way. We think a boycott counts as a refusal, but maybe that’s just us.)
As a business owner, you know you wouldn’t typically give out something entirely free to potential customers, so you can deduct that these students’ data is worth way more than the cup of coffee that they’re receiving in return.
Really, people. Would you give up your detailed personal data for something as virtually valueless as a cup of coffee?
Um, yes. As it turns out, most people probably would.
Of the people who are reading this article right now, some probably gave up personal data this week for a “free” white paper or eBook. Some probably surrendered personal data for that darn Safeway Rewards card the cashiers are always bugging us about. Most of you probably use a “free” email account, in which you trade a lot of personal data in exchange for instantaneous communication worldwide.
By the way, we’re not suggesting that free email accounts are bad (they’re awesome, in fact), but it is worth paying attention to what you’re getting when you provide your personal data as payment. Is it worth a free cup of coffee or a 40-cent discount on some Ritz crackers?
After all, you know what those companies will do with your personal data: they’ll advertise to you.
“Advertising? That’s not so bad,” you say to yourself. You figure you can handle some spam in return for a discount on your shopping… but let’s take that spam assumption of yours into the real world and see how it plays out.
In addition to collecting student data, Shiru Café also gets permission to advertise to students over email, digital screens, mobile devices, apps and signs, and also in person.
That’s right. The café has “specially trained staff members who give students additional information about [Shiru’s] sponsors” as the students enjoy their coffee. Actually, let’s put that “enjoyed” in quotes. We don’t know how much we’d be “enjoying” anything if people were trying to pitch us with each sip. Ugh.
Okay, creepy data harvesting and walking advertisements aside, how bad could this café be? Well… that’s where the real complexity comes in.
According to Jacob Furst, a professor of computer security as DePaul University, the data harvesting becomes a concern when students connect to the café’s WiFi. We agree that that simple action could potentially provide a much larger pool of information being shared, which may also be accessed by Shiru’s corporate sponsors.
This is where we get to the nitty-gritty. What are you sharing online with (and without) your knowledge, and how is that data being used? Do you know? Your IT support and services team will.
After all, it’s your IT support and services team who’s responsible for protecting your business data around the clock and for letting you know if an unauthorized person has been able to view your data. It’s also your IT support and services team’s responsibility to lock out those nosey intruders (or, in the common parlance, cybercriminals) who try to get access to your data by whatever means necessary.
Just to clarify, we’re not suggesting that Shiru Café is doing anything criminal. On the contrary, they’re politely offering cash-strapped students free coffee in return for data, and they have rather transparent practices regarding what they’re collecting and why.
Other companies are not as forthcoming.
Read Part 2 of the Data Privacy series to get the facts on the recent Facebook hack and find out what types of data Facebook has been collecting on you all these years.