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Online Risks Series #3: Understanding Personal Data

Personal data is formed of personally identifiable or sensitive information. It is specific and relative to a single individual.

It’s a pretty straightforward entity to define, however, there has been some conjecture as to how it is stored, shared and obtained in the first place. Online platforms and search engines harvest personal data, but it’s not always entirely evident or obvious as to when you give it away.

In relation to the subject comes the term ‘Digital footprint’, which defines what traces a person leaves behind when using the internet – this can be through websites you visit, emails you send and information you submit to online services.

ICO’s Age Appropriate Design: A Code of Practice for Online Services

In January of 2020, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) published its ‘age appropriate design code’ – a code which is formed of 15 standards that online services should meet in order to protect children’s privacy. It covers the services which are likely to be accessed by children and subsequently process their data.

To read further about the new Code of Practice, please click here

What are the associated dangers?

Regardless of the search engine you use, the websites you visit, or your public social media profiles, anyone can obtain access to your personal data if you’re not careful. Cookies, which are small pieces of data used by a specific website to keep track of your visits and activity, are sometimes designed with malicious intent to steal personal data.

Ever seen an advert targeted at you while browsing online and wondered how it came to be? Again, personal data is at the heart of this, and there’s every chance that a company has sold your data for the use of tailored marketing, based on your personal traits and behaviours.

It’s also been known for personal information to be used in cases of blackmail, bullying and abuse – something which only goes to highlight the importance of protecting your personal data.

Advice for parents & carers

There are a few simple measures which you can take in order to educate yourself on the subject of personal data and, in addition, help protect your children’s personal information online:

  • First and foremost, it is always important to read the terms and conditions of any website, search engine or app you use.
  • Install an antivirus software to all devices to help stop malware and other viruses from stealing personal data.
  • Ensure your children’s online accounts are set to private, especially social media profiles.
  • Reiterate the importance of not giving away personal data to another person or site.
  • Show your children know how to delete cookies from their web browser.
  • Ensure all passwords are secure.

Acting upon an incident arising

In the event of any incident occurring where you feel your child’s personal date may have been compromised, always look to swiftly change all passwords to accounts and contact the necessary hosting parties to help resolve the issue. If possible, it is recommended to conduct a virus scan and attempt to remove any harmful software too.

If you feel a serious data breach has taken place, it may be worth contacting the ICO.

Find out more

Click here to view our full range of courses which are designed for the whole school community and provide further advice and guidance on a range of online harms.

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