29/01/2014 10:48 GMT | Updated 30/03/2014 06:59 BST

Data Protection Day: How to Keep Your Private Life Private Online


It's the one celebration where it is better not to give anything away. Data Protection Day is held every year on 28 January to raise awareness about keeping your personal information safe online. Following the revelations about the NSA's mass surveillance programme over the last year, it now seems more important than ever.

Even though US President Barack Obama announced a reform of American programmes earlier this month, it doesn't mean there are no threats left. Companies now hold more information about their customers than ever before: not just their names and addresses, also their likes, dislikes, profession, religion and political convictions. And the US is far from the only country keeping tabs on what people do online. Only last week an investigative journalist testified about the scale of Russian surveillance programmes in the European Parliament.

However, we are not completely defenceless. European legislation on data protection is in the process of being beefed up to strengthen people's rights, harmonise the current patchwork of legislation and improve enforcement.

At the same time, we need some answers. Following the NSA revelations by whistle-blower Edward Snowdon, the European Parliament launched an indepth inquiry into US surveillance programmes. Once completed, the EP's civil liberties committee will produce a report with recommendations on how to further improve data protection in Europe, which will be voted during an upcoming plenary session.

Of course none of these improvements will happen overnight. So it looks like we will need Data Protection Day for years to come.

Infographic copyright European Parliament