Italian DPA offers guidelines for protecting personal information on vacation.

In Italy, July and August are the traditional holiday months, when most businesses come to a stop to allow their employees a vacation break both, a long-standing tradition as well as to merciless meteorological conditions.

Do we care enough about our personal data while on vacation?

Feeling that while on vacation people tend to have a – sometimes excessively – relaxed attitude and to adopt less caution as to their personal data, the Italian Information Commissioner considered necessary issuing an alert on the DONTs to consider while vacationing at the beaches or in the mountains.

The ‘Privacy in Summer’ guidelines call for the following ten cautions:

Alert no. 1: Do not overindulge in posting selfies and pictures! Think about the situation you are in, shown in the selfie or in the picture. Make sure that other people appearing do not object to being posted onto a social media platform. Consider whether ‘tagging’ a person is appropriate or not. Adopt special caution when posting pictures of minors.

Alert no. 2: Think about geolocation software on your devices and consider when to disable them.

Alert no. 3:  Thieves usually do not go on vacation, but they attend social media platforms. Letting them know that nobody is at home and how long you are going to stay away, may not result in a good idea.

Alert no. 4: Carry privacy concerns with you and check the privacy settings of your social networks! Avoid making all your content publicly accessible, keep it private and reserve it to your known contacts. Be careful, when accepting strangers into your network. Shield your social network accounts and control who is accessing them. While travelling and using public Internet access points, remind to delete your browsing history to delete access credentials used.

Alert no. 5: Consider the possibility of frequent fraud attempts (e.g. through alluring special offers, inviting you to hand over personal information or to give away critical online banking data). Check the safety settings of the website you are accessing for a purchase. Possibly, use only prepaid credit cards (loaded only with small amount of credit).  

Alert no. 6: When downloading apps for online games or tourist information, be aware that this kind of software is frequently used for placing viruses or malware on your device. Use only ‘official sites’ for such downloads, read the descriptions and check the reviews.

Alert no. 7:Open wi-fi connections in restaurants, spas, beach resorts or other public access points may easily lack of adequate safety measures, therefore allowing thugs or ill-intentioned individuals to hack into your accounts and to make you subject to phishing practices or to identity theft. Therefore, always disable the automated access function when approaching unknown networks.

Alert no. 8: Choose a high safety level for the privacy settings of your devices and keep them up to date.

Alert no. 9: Do not store sensitive information – such as passwords or access codes - on your devices, as they might get stolen. Arrange for all devices having a pass coded access. Make sure to have your devices’ IMEI code available for blocking them in case of theft or loss. Before leaving, prepare a backup copy of all your sensitive and relevant information on a pen drive or an external hard disk.

Alert no. 10: During your vacation, you will almost certainly increase your use of SMS, chatrooms, messaging platforms/software and social media. Pay always attention to what you are downloading or accessing. Be wary of unknown sources. The guidelines close with the recommendation that sticking with common sense is always an advisable choice, also during vacation.
Sophisticated privacy experts may be disappointed by the DPA’s suggestions, considering them as quite elementary. However, such experts could result surprised by the – hopefully honest - answers they get when asking themselves how many of these ‘trivial’ recommendations they follow while on vacation with their families.