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EU & Canada Want to Track Airline Passenger Data: 5 Tips to Protect Your Privacy Online

September 2016 by NordVPN

The European Union and Canada have drafted an agreement, which allows sharing airline passenger data, called Passenger Name Record (PNR). Advocate General Paolo Mengozzi of the EU’s Court of Justice said that certain parts of the deal go against EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, recommending a review and redraft of the agreement, but it’s unknown if the key security concerns would be addressed.

Governments in Europe, North America, Australia and elsewhere have been rushing to implement mass surveillance laws, and attempt to pass some of the most invasive data sharing and retention legislation that has previously existed.

The newly proposed EU-Canada agreement wants to allow authorities to use passenger data, including names, travel dates, itineraries, ticket and contact details, travel agents and other information.

Prominent EU Parliament members have been questioning “the necessity and proportionality of a massive transfer of EU passenger data.”

In an alarming trend, U.S. Department of Homeland security has proposed collecting social media data (in addition to all the other personal passenger data normally collected) from all non-immigrant passengers arriving to the U.S., with some exceptions.

NordVPN believes that unnecessary transfers or retaining of people’s personal data imposes big risks to security and privacy. When big amounts of private data are handled by other people, mistakes are hard to avoid. It also increases the vulnerability of the data and makes it susceptible to data hacks and identity theft.

NordVPN encourages all people to follow basic online security and privacy rules whenever possible. While it’s probably impossible to protect the privacy of personal information that governments intend to share with airlines, it’s easy to secure one’s online activities. That way, the retained personal data will never be matched with a person’s social media data, social security number, passwords and so on in case there is a security leak in the government’s database.

1. Use a VPN whenever you go online

VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) encrypt all the data you share across the Internet on any website. They are the best security mechanism you can employ to make sure the data you share over the Internet is safe from prying eyes and remains confidential. VPNs connect a user to the Internet through an alternative path, while encrypting the connection. The only information visible is that a user is connected to a VPN server and nothing else. NordVPN, for example, offers military-grade protection with the most advanced encryption protocols.

2. Make sure your VPN provider doesn’t collect customer logs

When you choose a VPN provider, you place your trust in that company, believing it will encrypt and protect your data, never sharing it with anyone - governments or commercial companies - and that it will delete all your logs immediately after each session. However, not many users know that most VPN companies are bound by law to keep logs of their clients browsing histories, depending on which country they are located in. Panama, where NordVPN is based, does not require the companies to keep customers’ logs, and the logs are discarded after each session.

3. Use Tor browser

Tor (The Onion Router) network is also called a dark web since it provides access to completely uncensored online experience. Tor keeps growing in popularity with an estimated 2.5+ million users daily, with over 1M per month using it to access Facebook alone. While Tor browser is easy to download and use, its users should take special precautions to keep their identity and activity safe, since it is a completely unregulated online browsing experience. When people access Onion websites, they should be careful not to fall victim to some attractive offers they can find there, as they can never be sure who is on the other side of the line. The same rules apply to Tor Network safety as any other Internet marketplace /network: for example, not volunteering personal information, and avoiding deals that look too good to be true. Users should always have VPN turned on when surfing the dark net in order to protect their information, and should delete/ disable cookies after each session.

4. Protect your smartphone

Many people might already be using a VPN on their computers in order to stay private online, but forget to follow the same precautions when they are on their smartphones. Fortunately, many VPN providers create apps now that can be downloaded into a smartphone to keep it safe also. NordVPN currently has Android and iOS apps for smartphones.

5. Don’t overshare on social media

Finally, no security protocols or Tor browsers will protect your privacy, if you give out too much information online. Never give out your personal details - such as address, phone number, real names of your children, etc. on social media. Whatever goes online, stays online, which is a public domain, and you can never be sure your data will not be used for identity theft.

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