Maryland Replacing Social Media Privacy Laws

With matters concerning data security, it is best to be extra careful. Many Federal and State laws exist to guard the privacy of online users: from social media to online shopping. Maryland enacted a state law in 2012 that attempted to regulate how employers use social media information gathered about their employees. The law placed limits on an employer’s ability to mandate employees or applicants to provide log-in information for personal accounts and services accessed through electronic communication devices as a condition of employment. In other words, the privacy of employees or potential employees is protected by this law, which is a first of its kind among state laws in the US. It protects employees and applicants, while keeping in check the rights of businesses. Multiple states have followed suit since 2012, passing and enacting similar laws. In total, twenty-six states have enacted laws that apply to employers.

Online Privacy Rights in the US

Mulitple Federal laws in the U.S. address Internet, data security, and privacy. The 1974 Privacy Act serves as the foundation for these. The Privacy Act was originally passed to establish control over the collection, use, maintenance and distribution of personal information by agencies in the executive branch of the U.S. government. Since the Internet becoming available and mainstream, the definition of privacy needed to be reassessed, and new laws concerning electronic communications and security were enacted. These included:

  • Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) – this law allows the U.S. government to access digital communications such as email, social media messages, information on public cloud databases, and more with a subpoena.
  • Cyber Intelligence Sharing And Protection Act (CISPA) – this law deals with how to share information on potential cyber threats with the federal government.
  • Computer Fraud And Abuse Act (CFAA)- this law makes it a crime to access and subsequently share protected information.
  • Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) – this act requires websites that collect information on children under the age of 13 to comply with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

State laws get more specific in this area, from the employer use of online data restrictions, to specific parameters for how quickly businesses need to notify their customers of data breaches, and what information to provide. It is clear that both State and Federal laws aim to protect the rights of individuals, while Federal laws work to make online data, such as criminal records available for the purposes of resolving criminal threats.

How to Protect Your Information Online

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Cyber security has become an important topic in which online users need to be well versed in order to protect themselves from fraud and identity theft. Keeping information secure and protecting one’s privacy is also the default preference of most social media and Internet users. The below is a guide for steps you can take to protect yourself online:

  1. Be on the lookout for false social media and email accounts – these are very common and are often set up to run online scams or obtain personal information from other people online. Do not approve friend or follow requests from people you do not know.
  2. Encrypt your data
  3. Keep passwords private and hard to crack – do not share them with your friends or family. Choose unique passwords for different sites. Use long passwords that would be hard to guess or figure out.
  4. Do not overshare on social media – be careful with sharing too much about your family, your travel plans and other things as they might make you a target for scams.
  5. Use security software – this will help protect your computer from viruses, phishing attacks and other cyber crimes.
  6. Avoid phishing emails – be very discerning when it comes to emails that ask you to provide information, or click on unfamiliar links.
  7. Be conscious of open wi-fi risks – when using wi-fi in a public place, keep in mind that your browsing and online activities are not private.

Mobile Devices & Privacy

Mobile smart phones and tablets have only increased privacy-related threats. Protect the data on your phone or tablet by following some basic privacy-protecting guidelines:

  1. Use a passcode to lock and unlock your phone
  2. Only purchase apps from the app store.
  3. Avoid clicking on suspicious links
  4. Consider enabling remote swiping so you can delete your info remotely in case your phone is stolen
  5. Regularly update your phone’s software
  6. Install security software on your phone or tablet
  7. Write down your International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number, which is located behind the battery. If your phone is lost or stolen, having this number can help to speed up its recovery.
  8. Perform regular backups

Cyber security is always changing rapidly, so stay aware of the current threats and tools that can help protect you. With the proper precautions, you can take advantage of the conveniences that technology offers, without having to fear for your privacy.

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