Penn State’s Privacy Office marks National Data Privacy Day

January 27, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Jan. 28 marks National Data Privacy Day, an international effort to empower individuals and encourage businesses to value privacy, safeguard data and enable trust. Penn State’s Privacy Office encourages you to focus on privacy in 2020. Digital privacy involves more than being cautious about your personal information; it means being aware of your digital footprint and the type of information that’s available about you online. It also means being scam savvy and making sure your personal devices are properly secured.

What does “digital footprint” mean?

Your digital footprint includes all the information you intentionally or unintentionally leave behind when you’re online. It could be information you enter or post, such as social media content, website searches, or email list and free trial offer signups, but it also includes information companies use to track you. Many companies use cookies or pixels which allow them to see where you’ve been and what you’re doing online. Personal information can translate into big dollars for companies who may then sell that information or use it in targeted marketing offers, so it’s important to think about the type of information you provide or the settings you allow on your devices.

How do I manage my digital footprint?

First and foremost, it’s important to be cautious when entering your information online. Tempting offers like percentage-off coupons or free shipping when visiting e-tailers come with a price: your email address, physical address and demographic information. Retailers can then sell that information or use it to build a profile about you. Think carefully about the information you’re sharing before you provide it.

Another easy way to reduce your digital footprint is to review the privacy settings of your devices and to reject “cookies” when visiting websites. Cookies often allow these sites to track your online habits, so be cautious before agreeing to accept them. Privacy settings help to control which information can be accessed about you online. For example, social media privacy settings allow you to control who sees the content that you post and what information advertisers may collect about you online. You can learn more about privacy settings by visiting staysafeonline, powered by the National Cybersecurity Alliance.

How can I keep my information private?

Ensuring the security of your online identity can go a long way toward enhancing your digital privacy online. Two-factor authentication (2FA) provides an extra layer of protection by requiring the user to confirm their identity every time they log in. Penn State requires all faculty and staff to enroll in DUO, a free 2FA program that helps to secure your Penn State Access Account. The University encourages students to sign up for DUO as well; it’s free at

Penn State Access Accounts remain high value targets for cybercriminals and can be used to manage financial information including bank account numbers for refunds and payroll (if you’re employed by Penn State) and tuition payment/refund information and course enrollment (if you’re a student). In addition to enrolling in DUO, you can protect all your accounts by choosing a strong password. Your password acts as the “key” to unlock your account, so choose it carefully. Don’t use information that’s publicly available (including information you might post on social media) or that’s easy to guess, such as your birthdate, pet’s name or names of people in your family. Never use the same password for more than one account and never share your passwords with anyone.

You can learn more about securing your personal accounts and choosing strong passwords at staysafeonline.

How does Penn State protect my privacy?

Penn State remains committed to protecting the privacy of our community. The University complies with local, national and international privacy regulations and has adopted a core set of Privacy Principles that act in the community’s best interests. Penn State encourages faculty, staff and students to learn more about the Privacy Principles and how Penn State applies them.

As you tackle another year, take time to consider the impact of your digital footprint and take a few moments to update your privacy settings, passwords and digital devices. With more and more privacy breaches making international headlines, taking a proactive privacy stance can help you stay secure online. To learn more about privacy at Penn State, please visit

Last Updated January 30, 2020