BBB: Tips on data privacy

Milwaukee, Wis. – The possibility of a cyberattack by a foreign country has gone from being the stuff of science fiction to a common threat that we hear about in the news media almost daily. While it may seem like there is nothing an individual can do to thwart a cyberattack, there are some best practices that can help you be better prepared for the possibility.

We all share a lot of information when we use the internet. Our devices communicate with us – and with each other – for ease of shopping, banking, travel arrangements, and keeping in touch with friends. When online, it’s important to safeguard your data to help avoid scams, fraud, and identity theft. As we approach Data Privacy Day (January 28), the Better Business Bureau and the National Cyber Security Alliance offer the following tips to help secure the privacy of your critical information: 

  • Share with care. What you post can last a lifetime, so think about who will see your posts and photos, how they will be perceived, and what information they reveal about you.
  • Own your online presence. Set the privacy and security settings on web services and devices to your comfort level for information sharing. It’s OK to limit how and with whom you share information.
  • Value your personal information. Think of your personal information like money: value and protect it. Be careful what sites you visit and be sure you are on a legitimate site before entering personal information. Be especially wary of communications that implore you to act immediately, offer something that sounds too good to be true, or ask for personal information.
  • Make your passwords long and strong. Use long passwords with a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols – eight characters for most accounts, twelve characters for email and financial accounts. Don’t use the same password for multiple accounts, especially email and financial. Keep a paper list of your passwords in a safe place, not on or near your computer. Consider using a password vault application.
  • Lock down your login. For your online accounts, use the strongest authentication tools available. Your user names and passwords are not enough; consider two-factor authentication for key accounts like email, banking, and social media, especially for access on mobile devices.
  • Don’t click on unfamiliar links. Whether at home or at work, don’t click on links from unfamiliar sources or unexpected correspondence. One false click can infect a whole computer… or a whole business.
  • Pay attention to your Internet-connected devices. Smart thermostats, voice control systems, cars, even refrigerators are just the beginning of the growing list of devices that watch our homes and track our location. Read the privacy policy and understand what data is being collected and how it will be used. 

 Charitable organizations also need to be aware of data privacy. Donors and others communicate online with charities via their websites, emails and other online means and need to be informed about what policies are in place to address privacy concerns. BBB Wise Giving Alliance published a blog article containing advice for charities and donors regarding data privacy concerns

For more information: 

To make choices about your personal privacy and keep your data safe and secure use these digital literacy tips.

For more on how to make sure your business complies with privacy laws, including GDPR and COPPA, follow these tips from BBB National Programs.

Individuals should check out the National Cyber Security Alliance’s Privacy Tips, including special information for teens, parents, older adults, mobile users, and more.

Hear BBB National Programs privacy and security professionals discuss data privacy issues on the BBB National Programs “Better Business > Better Series” podcast series. Make sure to subscribe to the series on your mobile device or listen to it on the web.

Businesses should check out BBB’s Five Steps to Better Business Cybersecurity ( Ask the BBB in your area about programs for business leaders and employees ( 

For an online version click here For more information or further inquiries, contact the Wisconsin BBB at, 414-847-6000 or 1-800-273-1002. Consumers also can find more information about how to protect themselves from scams by following the Wisconsin BBB on FacebookTwitterInstagram and YouTube.