My USB, myself: The importance of protecting your personal data

In an era where so many of us are storing our personal data on USBs, it’s time to think about the potential consequences of losing it all.

Memories. They are arguably one of the most powerful resources in the human experience. They are almost supernatural in their capacity: They allow us to replay the wonderful and terrible moments in our lives; they provide an opportunity for self-reflection; they allow us to share connections and moments with other people; they even grant us the ability to travel in time. We are constantly making and creating memories. In fact, it is estimated that the average adult human brain can store the equivalent of 2.5 million gigabytes of digital memory. Pretty impressive, considering that that USB on your desk can probably store about 16GB.

Overtime, however, humans have acknowledged that while our brains are powerful, they are also fallible. This has led us to rely on electronic devices, such as USBs, to store our personal information. We take the memories in our minds and store them on USBs, in the hope of making them immortal. Photos, home videos, letters, emails, documents, songs. All of these little things add up to tell someone’s intimate life story. And we store them all on a single device, tiny enough to fit in your pocket or purse.

But what would happen if you were to lose this device? What if it were found by a stranger? And what if that stranger went through your files?

Would you feel comfortable having someone go through your most intimate images, videos, documents? Would you be at ease, knowing that someone, somewhere, could be viewing your memories, thoughts and interactions, with the simple click of a button?

Or would you feel violated, having someone pry through your inner life on a screen? Would you feel discomfort, knowing that someone had complete access to your personal data? Your life, your stories, your images, your memories, the pieces and snapshots of your identity, suddenly in the hands of an anonymous stranger on the internet. Would you feel safe?

Unfortunately, with more and more of us storing personal data on USBs, this could become a reality. Companies and businesses have already learnt this the hard way; it’s estimated that lost USBs can cost companies up to a whopping $2.5 million. While the consequences for individuals may not seem as financially dire, there is undeniably an emotional cost in having potentially years of saved personal data lost or stolen. Moreover, once that data is lost, there is no guarantee it will be restored to you. Even more frighteningly, if it falls into the wrong hands, it could be used against you. We’re all familiar with the stories of celebrities taking intimate photos or videos in private, only to have them later splashed across tabloids and spread across social media in an effort to shame or humiliate them. It’s an unfortunate reality, but it is the reality in which we live.

In an age where so much of our lives is lived online, it’s imperative that we act to protect ourselves. The potential consequences of indifference are simply too costly. We must take precautionary measures to make sure our personal data is safe, secure and protected against the prying eyes of strangers.

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