Today is Data Privacy Day, which raises a very important question among us college students: Who cares?

What if I told you that the federal government cares, smarty-pants? You would probably be surprised, especially since you didn’t think that the federal government cared about anything, or even that Data Privacy Day existed. (It does, as of last year, when the House of Representatives passed a bill or something.) The point is: millions of Americans, including your little sister, are sharing lots of private things on the Internet, sometimes by accident. The time has come to raise our awareness.

To raise your awareness, do the following: log onto privacyisfun!.com. Then, click the box that says, “Donate To Privacyisfun!.com.” (This is the only thing displayed on privacyisfun!.com.) You will get a prompt asking for your social security number, credit card number and favorite color. Fill this out. As you are filling this out STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING! You have been scammed into giving out PII (personally identifiable information)! Third parties of questionable morality (such as the Green Party) can use your PII to impersonate you, exploit your bank account and update your Facebook. This happens to grandmothers across the country everyday – don’t let it happen to you. This is what Data Privacy Day is all about.

It happened to my family and boy, is it a hassle. We got a call recently from a security expert or someone (I mean, who can tell over the phone?) informing us that she had all of our social security numbers on file. The culprit? What we had foolishly least expected: porn. No, I mean Limewire. That’s right, using Limewire and file sharing had unleashed a boatload of PII from the family computer, including our social security numbers from tax returns.

So I don’t want this to happen to you. The good news is that many of us stopped using Limewire after record companies threatened to hunt us down and break our kneecaps. The bad news is that many of us are unknowingly sharing our PII up the wazoo through Facebook. It’s not information that can get us into financial trouble – unless you consider future job prospects. But it is information that you might not want “out there,” such as what you look like after eleven beers. Yes, if you missed or ignored Facebook’s change in privacy policy in December, your pictures and other info could be visible to friends of friends, or even everyone, and in some cases columnists doing “research.”

By my count, which is ongoing, I estimate that over half – and perhaps even three-quarters – of the people in the “University of Michigan” network have completely open or partially open profiles. And out of this number, I would estimate that about twelve percent of the females are worth dat- …I mean, out of this number, I wonder how many know that thousands of people can stalk them. There are, of course, people who want all their information out there. (These are people you should probably avoid dating.)

Some may question the value of Data Privacy Day, and not just because it’s called Data Privacy Day. I have to admit that before learning about it I didn’t really need a day to remind me about the dangers of the Internet, because I have a mom.

Mom (on the phone): “So your sister got an ‘A’ on her math test, and… Are you listening to me?”

Me: “Hold on.”

Mom (louder): “Hello? Hello? Are you on MyBook? You’re on MyBook, aren’t you? I can tell. Why do you do that thing? Honey, he’s on MyBook again.”

Me: “It’s Facebook.”

Mom: “And…people can see your…face? I mean, your pictures?”

Me: “well, my friends can.”

Mom: “Oh. Well, I guess it’s nice that you have some these days. But don’t you worry about stalkers? I was just reading this article about…”

Me: (Click.)

But if you don’t have a nagging mother, the federal government is a good alternative when it comes to reminding you to keep your private information safe. Hey, isn’t that ironic after they passed the Patriot – Well, who cares?

Will Grundler can be reached at wgru@umich.edu.

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