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Skip to 0 minutes and 13 seconds Privacy is a human right protected by law. For the individual, it is the right to be left alone. It is being able to control what we are sharing, to whom we are sharing it, and when we are sharing it. But in order for people to function in society, they tend to disclose information about themselves. This enables building relationships, engaging in social networks, etc.

Skip to 0 minutes and 47 seconds Theoretically, online privacy is different from offline privacy, especially for the person exercising their privacy. This is because in an online situation, companies are involved. Companies need to be involved because, to provide us with quality services, they retain information about us, sensitive or personal information. They have to process the information and store it around on servers, etc. So compared to the offline situation where we can just pull up the curtains in our home or we can drop out of a conversation or have an emotional response to protect our privacy, we cannot do that online. And also, we cannot depend on people to forget what we’ve told them yesterday or the week before as well, because information is stored forever anyway.

Skip to 1 minute and 46 seconds Companies have a duty of care towards their customers to protect their privacy. They have to abide, for instance, by the UK data protection law or the EU regulations. They employ security controls, conduct privacy impact assessments to verify their systems. But still, there might be intentional attacks from outsiders, to hack into their systems or unintentional mistakes by insiders, employees, forgetting to log out of a system or losing equipment, for instance. So that means that sensitive and personal information of the customer is still at risk in a way.

Skip to 2 minutes and 35 seconds The situation can be improved via different facets. One of them is new policies and regulations, such as the right to be forgotten. And secondly, via research. There are currently lots of research looking into the technical aspects of improving privacy mechanisms, privacy tools online. But there is also new research looking into how human beings interact with privacy systems, what makes them take certain decisions, and what drives them to respond in a certain way and disclose or share information.

Skip to 3 minutes and 19 seconds Some examples of what can go wrong have been very much advertised in recent years. And this happens by security attacks resulting in huge privacy breaches. We all know of the scandalous cases, for example, of WikiLeaks a few years ago. Apart from that, we have the situation of Adobe, where hackers raided a backup server containing customer information. Then we have the situation of Snapchat, where hackers wanted to expose Snapchat’s poor cybersecurity practices. And to do that, they exposed customer details online, personal information and sensitive information. Another scenario is the EBay situation, where hackers gained access via employee login credentials. And again, there were sensitive and personal information of customers exposed, including physical addresses and date of births.

Privacy online and offline

We’ve begun to investigate what privacy means - the right to be left alone.

Every day we have to choose what to disclose and what to share. But how is online privacy different? In this video Dr Kovila Coopamootoo describes the differences between online and offline privacy.

In offline interactions, we need to disclose information about ourselves in order to build trust with other people. When we move online, there are differences: companies need to be involved in order to facilitate online interaction, and they need to retain information about us to do this. These companies have a duty of care to protect our privacy, but our information can be at risk of accidental data loss or malicious attacks.

Kovila describes some of the things that can be done to combat these problems, such as new policies including the right to erasure (which applies in the UK under the General Data Protection Regulation), and research into how people interact with privacy tools such as ad-blockers, private browsing and privacy tools. We will unpack these further as the week progresses.

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Cyber Security: Safety at Home, Online, in Life

Newcastle University

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