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Data privacy day needs more publicity for full effect

Carnegie Mellon’s Data Privacy Day, held this past Wednesday, becomes a more pertinent event every year. Although this celebration occurs globally, our university takes this topic very seriously, as we have a vested interest in data and computer security. While we hold activities for Data Privacy Day, they should be more publicized to the student body, especially considering recent events concerning government surveillance.

Last year’s NSA debacle validated fears that the United States government spies on practically everyone. During his presidency, Barack Obama has gone from a critic of the extent of our surveillance programs to a practical overseer of our spying programs — programs that don’t seem to be going away any time soon. Granted, our government believes that it retains such a far-reaching eye for the safety and well-being of the American people, but there are many who feel that the government is overstepping its bounds — German Chancellor Angela Merkel, for one.

The discourse for Carnegie Mellon’s Data Privacy Day rightfully shifted, then, toward subjects on personal privacy and information safety. Nicole Wong, the White House’s first-ever chief privacy officer, was this year’s keynote speaker, and while the room in the Gates Hillman Complex had over 100 people, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the speaker’s credentials and her topics could have brought a much larger audience had it been properly publicized.

The university seems like a perfect place to foster an environment to better celebrate Data Privacy Day. Wong mentioned our master’s of information technology program — not to mention our world-class computer science program — as exemplary steps toward improving on privacy engineering. However, Wong emphasized that everyone wants a different level of privacy for different aspects of their lives, and that individualization of privacy is paramount.

Many people at Carnegie Mellon probably care about their data privacy, but they could know more about how to implement it with a more public Data Privacy Day on campus. More events and an email to the student body regarding the holiday would be an easy way to make it more prominent on campus. Current Data Privacy Day activities include a privacy clinic, which provides advice for online and mobile device privacy settings, and a “privacy research poster session.” A larger, panel-based Q & A session in a more frequented part of campus — perhaps Rangos Hall — would bring more people and open up discourse for those who don’t know much about data privacy.

More information about national Data Privacy Day and personal information safety can be found at staysafeonline.org.