Digital tools can do more to protect privacy

Unlike an Indian summer that reminds us of the scorching season gone by, the digital world is feeling “heat” from an epidemic: media outlets are awash with reports of new strains of “ransomware” almost daily.

I just wrote about ransomware in late spring, but this is a good time to remind you to be vigilant with your digital world “habits.” I will review some do's and don'ts in an upcoming article.

Everybody has "skin in the game" when it comes to protecting and ensuring the privacy of our information. The counterpart that always accompanies talk of privacy is “security” and the hotly debated topic of whether certain erosion of personal privacy is acceptable for the greater good of national security. Leaving the latter argument for the experts to duke out, I want to shed light on a particular business practice that has been a pet peeve of mine for quite some time now because it undermines our personal pursuit of privacy.

Before the digital age, it was hardly a thought to protect our personal information from strangers – we just didn’t give it out. Without a computer or the internet, it took time for nefarious entities to gather our private information for illicit motives. But with the arrival of the digital world and its offerings of tools, it has become a cinch to find out anything in short order and just a trinket of information, such as name and phone number, can lead to more complete information for both legitimate and illicit uses alike.

Until I started taking prescription medicine for my Type 2 diabetes, I was pretty healthy and didn’t often visit the pharmacy. With my new prescription, I find myself there regularly. I have also changed pharmacies several times now so I am now familiar with this standard, albeit annoying, procedure: pharmacists ask us to verify our date of birth and address every time. That is a reasonable request , as long as they don’t do this in the earshot of others in line.

What’s more annoying is that pharmacies already have a tool at their disposal – a credit card terminal with a screen, physical keypad and/or a touch screen – for us to answer/accept regulatory compliance questions before they can dispense any controlled substance.

So the question to pharmacies is why not make full use the tool and allow us to discreetly supply our personal information? As I wrote earlier, everyone including organizations handling our private information, need to be cognizant of the privacy implications of what they do or don’t do.

Another example, although efficacy is currently questioned due to how it is implemented in the United States, is the security chip on credit cards that brings stronger security. Around town I see many merchants still just using the swiping method even though they have newer terminals that accept chipped cards. Here again, a potential tool to protect consumers and their information may not be fully realized.

Tak Sato

Technology and Organization Strategist with over 25 years of experience. Holds Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Science and Executive MBA from Cleveland State University.

As co-founder of geek with a heart with the service mark "Hand-holding You in the Digital World" and co-founder of Center for Aging in the Digital World, a nonprofit empowering seniors through technology, Tak helps people utilize appropriate technology in their personal and professional lives.

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Volume 8, Issue 17, Posted 10:58 AM, 09.07.2016