Tomorrow, 28 January, is Data Privacy Day or, as it is known in Europe, Data Protection Day. You may never have heard of it; nevertheless, it has been observed for nearly two decades. The Council of Europe staff explains, “In 2006, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe decided to launch a Data Protection Day, to be celebrated each year on 28 January. Data Protection Day is now celebrated globally and is called the ‘Privacy Day’ outside Europe.” Although Data Privacy Day began in 2006, its origins stretch back a quarter-of-a-century earlier. It was on 28 January 1981 that the Council of Europe opened the data protection convention for signature. The Council’s staff notes, “The 1981 ‘Convention 108’ … is the only international, multilateral and legally binding instrument to protect privacy and personal data. It has 55 parties and 36 observers.” Since Convention 108 was first open for signature, it has been updated to “Convention 108+.” The Council notes:
“[This] modernized version, ‘Convention 108+’, makes it the landmark instrument for facilitating data flows and respecting human dignity in the digital age. It is a unique, global tool for regulatory harmonization and convergence that restores human beings’ position as subjects of algorithmic deduction, control or surveillance and not as mere objects. It sets the commonly acceptable level of protection for individuals in an ever-expanding digital era in order to safeguard their dignity and privacy, while fully enjoying the right to informational self-determination. Furthermore, acceding to Convention 108+ is an opportunity for countries worldwide to ensure international recognition for their level of data protection. It also enables individuals under their jurisdiction to fully exercise their rights to the protection of private life and personal data.”
The staff at National Today adds, “As the line between our offline and online lives continues to blur, Data Privacy Day … is the little nudge we need at the beginning of each new year to make safeguarding our personal information a priority.” They go on to note that Data Privacy Day in North America has become an initiative of the National Cybersecurity Alliance (NCA) and this year’s campaign is called, “STOP. THINK. CONNECT.” In 2021, the NCA notes, they extended Data Privacy Day into Data Privacy Week “because your data is that important!” Another group throwing its full support behind Data Privacy Day is the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP). The IAPP staff notes, “Data powers the information economy. And the risks associated with it continue to skyrocket. Data breach, identity theft, loss of customer trust — these are the threats to organizations of all sizes, in all sectors, in today’s marketplace.”
Celebrating National Privacy Day
Whether you’re an organization, a privacy professional, or a concerned consumer, there are a number of ways you can observe National Privacy Day and learn to protect your data year-round.
• Organizations. The NCA encourages organizations to become Data Privacy Week Champions. To encourage participation, the Alliance provides all Champions with a toolkit of materials that includes: A PDF guide to Data Privacy Week and ways to get involved; sample social media posts and graphics; logos and Champion badges; video call backgrounds; a sample press release; a sample email for employees; posters; infographics; and tip sheets.
• Privacy Professionals. The IAPP encourages privacy professionals to join a KnowledgeNet Chapter where they can meet other local professionals. They also offer privacy professionals a Data Privacy Day Swag Bag. The swag bag comes complete with virtual backgrounds to add some flair to KnowledgeNet Chapter celebrations as well as social graphics privacy professionals can use to spread the word about Data Privacy Day.
• Individuals. The National Day staff suggests five ways individuals can observe Data Privacy Day. First, “tend to your operating systems and software. Make sure your computer and mobile devices are running the latest version of operating systems and software.” Second, “update your privacy preferences. Regularly review and update your web browser’s privacy preferences, delete any cookies, and clear the cache.” Third, “reset your home network router. Routers that enable wireless devices to connect to your home internet service are vulnerable to hacking, too. Fourth, “update account passwords. Create different passwords for each of your online accounts — if you have a lot of accounts and find it challenging to keep track of all those different passwords, consider subscribing to a password generator tool that generates random passwords for each one of your accounts but requires you to only remember ONE.” The NCA staff adds, “Create long (at least 12 characters), unique passwords for each account and device. … Turn on multifactor authentication (MFA) wherever it is permitted — this keeps your data safe even if your password is compromised.” Finally, the National Today staff suggests shredding the evidence. “Shred hard (paper) copies of invoices, financial records, tax documents, legal papers, magazine labels, envelopes, purchase receipts — any paper that has any information about you, because not all data thieves work on the internet.”
The National Today staff believes Data Privacy Day is important because “it reminds us to be vigilant.” They add, “Your complacency is a data hacker’s best friend.” Complacency can also result in devastating consequences if you become a victim of identity theft. The NCA staff suggests you should evaluate the tradeoff between privacy and convenience. They explain, “Nowadays, when you download a new app, open a new online account, or join a new social media platform, you will often be asked for access to your personal information before you can even use it! This data might include your geographic location, contacts, and photos. For these businesses, this personal information about you is tremendously value — and you should think about if the service you get in return is worth the data you must hand over, even if the service is free.”
Ethical businesses use personal data in ways that provide both them and users with value — and they value privacy as well as protect personal data. For that reason, the NCA staff suggests you “make informed decisions about sharing your data with businesses or services.” To help you make an informed decision, they recommend answering the following questions:
• Is the service, app, or game worth the amount or type of personal data they want in return?
• Can you control your data privacy and still use the service?
• Is the data requested even relevant for the app or service (that is, “why does a Solitaire game need to know all my contacts”)?
• If you haven’t used an app, service, or account in several months, is it worth keeping around knowing that it might be collecting and sharing your data?
At the end of day, the NCA staff notes, “Data privacy and data security go hand-in-hand.” All stakeholders have a role to play on both fronts. Data Privacy Day is a good time to reassess how well you and your organization is doing.
 Staff, “28 January 2022: 16th Data Protection Day,” Council of Europe, 2022.
 Staff, “28 January – Data protection day,” Council of Europe, 2022.
 Staff, “Data Privacy Day – January 28, 2023,” National Today, 2023.
 Staff, “What Is Data Privacy Week?” National Cybersecurity Alliance, 1 July 2022.