Data Privacy Day: How to protect privacy in public spaces

While in public places, most individuals know to hide their data from “shoulder surfers”, those who look over the shoulders of others when using an ATM or making a debit card purchase in a store. People have been taught to make sure the PIN and balances are hidden. What about when using a laptop or mobile device in a public space?

Surveillance cameras are everywhere from coffee shops to airports to public streets. People take selfies and record with their cell phones everywhere they go. People carry out their daily activities without thinking about all of these recordings because it’s everywhere and because not much can be done to seclude anyone from it. Yet, the cameras see and record everything that occurs within their scope.

At the same time, we are making purchases, accessing and working on sensitive material, emailing colleagues and clients, texting and calling contacts, discussing confidential and private information on our mobile devices—all of it captured by surveillance cameras and some of it by mobile phones. Those recordings can be accessed, reviewed and your information used to steal your credentials, your identity, intellectual property or simply, invade privacy.

Here are some privacy tips for public spaces:

  • Just because you don’t see a camera doesn’t mean there isn’t one. Assume you are being recorded. Surveillance cameras are cheap and ubiquitous. Either do not access private information in public or make sure that the screen is shielded from view.
  • Don’t assume that conversations aren’t recorded. Video cameras and cell phones are often set to record audio when recording video by default. There may be no one else in the café, but the mobile phone conversation may be picked up by an incorrectly configured surveillance camera.
  • If the content on the device is too sensitive to be published on social media or seen by a competitor, shield the screen or find a secure place to make the call.

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© 2022/2020 The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company. All rights reserved. This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to convey or constitute legal advice. HSB makes no warranties or representations as to the accuracy or completeness of the content herein. Under no circumstances shall HSB or any party involved in creating or delivering this article be liable to you for any loss or damage that results from the use of the information contained herein. Except as otherwise expressly permitted by HSB in writing, no portion of this article may be reproduced, copied, or distributed in any way. This article does not modify or invalidate any of the provisions, exclusions, terms or conditions of the applicable policy and endorsements. For specific terms and conditions, please refer to the applicable endorsement form.

Monique Ferraro

Monique is counsel in Munich Re’s US Cyber Practice at HSB. Previously, she was principal at a digital forensics, e-discovery and information security consulting firm and owner of a law firm. Ms. Ferraro is a Certified Information Systems Security Professional.

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