Penn Staters encouraged to protect personal information on Data Privacy Day

January 25, 2017

As the challenge of keeping personal information out of the hands of cybercriminals becomes more complicated, the Penn State Privacy Office is encouraging students, faculty and staff members to follow best practices for storing and sharing online data in recognition of Data Privacy Day on Jan. 28.

Hackers have varying motivations, and for some, stealing and selling personally identifiable information (PII) — which includes any data that can be used to distinguish or trace a person’s identity — has become big business, according to Holly Swires, privacy officer and interim deputy chief information security officer at Penn State.

“The goal of Data Privacy Day is to raise awareness and promote privacy and data protection best practices for individuals, businesses and higher education institutions,” Swires said. “Whether it’s for yourself or part of your job at the University, taking a few steps to protect sensitive information, such as financial account information and Social Security numbers, is the right thing to do and can help create a safer computing environment for everyone at the University.”

To safeguard your information, the Privacy Office recommends taking the following actions:

  • Create a unique, complex password for each of your online accounts
  • Beware of what you share and post online
  • Encrypt sensitive data such as credit card and driver’s license numbers
  • Securely delete data you no longer need
  • Keep your academic, work and personal online presences separate

“Like all universities, Penn State is faced with the challenge of preventing and repelling attempted security intrusions on a daily basis and our goal is to continually guard PII against inappropriate access and use,” Swires said. “To meet this goal, the University has a number of measures in place — including a robust privacy policy, compliance programs, safeguards, and awareness and education initiatives — but it’s also up to each of us to be responsible stewards of our own data and the data with which we work.”

For additional tips on how to protect your online identity on Data Privacy Day and every day, visit Stay Safe Online.

Students, faculty and staff can learn more about online privacy at and If you need assistance with or have PII, identity theft or other privacy-related questions, contact the Privacy Office via email at

  • Data Privacy Day wordmark

    Data Privacy Day is an international effort that takes place every Jan. 28 to raise awareness around the importance of privacy and protecting online information.

    IMAGE: Courtesy of Holly Swires
Last Updated February 01, 2017