This year, Data Privacy Day, traditionally marked on January 28, has expanded to a global, weeklong initiative to raise awareness and promote best practices around data privacy and protection in the digital age.

In honour of Data Privacy Week, here are five steps you can take today to help protect your privacy and safeguard your personal data: 

Use strong passwords.

No one likes having to create and remember passwords, but a strong password is your first line of defense. Passwords should use a combination of upper and lowercase characters, numbers, and symbols. Avoid using dictionary words as these are easy for hacking software to crack.

When it comes to passwords, the longer, the better! Experts recommend at least 12–15 characters. Consider using a passphrase. Turn a phrase you’ll remember into an acronym. For example:  “I have two dogs. One is named Spot and the other is named Fido” becomes “Ih2d.1inS&toinF.”

Make a habit of changing your passwords on a regular basis and use a unique password for each account. 

Enable two-factor authentication.

For an extra layer of security, enable two-factor authentication (2FA) whenever possible. With 2FA enabled, you’ll be prompted to enter a second piece of information after correctly entering your password. This is usually a one-time code sent to you by text message or email.

Close accounts and uninstall apps you no longer use.

Recently, a number of inactive platforms like Myspace and Google+ have suffered data breaches, affecting millions of users who hadn't logged in for years. These “zombie” accounts can be particularly vulnerable as they are more likely to use passwords recycled with other active accounts and have poor data protection practices in place. 

Review privacy policies and terms of service.

No one wants to read the fine print, but remember, knowledge is power! It’s easy to blindly click “agree” when you create a new account or install an app, but it’s important to understand what you are giving up. Pay attention to what data is collected, who owns it, how it will be used, where it will be stored, and if any third parties will have access. Be on the alert for any overly invasive terms and conditions. 

Don’t overshare on social media, and check your privacy settings.

It’s fun to share details about our lives online, but this can also put your personal data at risk. Check the privacy settings on the web services and apps you use and adjust them to your comfort level. Be cautious when posting details about your location, birthday, or other personal details. 

Want to view your privacy settings, but don't know where to find them? The website maintains a list of direct links to the privacy settings of popular online services.

Also be wary of those widely circulated Facebook quizzes that use your middle initial, birth month or year, and other personal details to reveal something fun about yourself, like  “Which Dr. Seuss Character Are You?” While seemingly innocent, you could unintentionally give hackers access to details that are commonly used in security questions used to verify your identity. 

These are just a few proactive steps you can take to defend yourself from unwanted attempts to access your data and protect your privacy from those you don’t consent to sharing your information with. 

Want to learn more? Check out these recommended links: 

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