What Does the Future of Privacy Look Like?Greg Garner
In today’s digital world, people are often asked to exchange information about themselves or their habits for the use of online platforms like social media and e-commerce. This knowledge doesn’t necessarily mitigate the rising concern about what this data collection means. Data collection can pose some risks — large-scale security breaches have exposed the private information of millions, and even resulted in legal action as sensitive information, such as names, birthdates, and employment data have been leaked.
Professionals in cybersecurity and IT are constantly looking for ways to improve privacy in the public and private sectors, as consumers demand that the companies collecting their data be more transparent. Emerging technological, social, and legislative trends are shaping the way we interact with privacy issues going forward.
Trends Shaping the Future of Privacy
Both technological advancements and societal events, such as COVID-19, are responsible for shaping the future of data privacy, as they impact the way we share and store data. Some of the current trends making an impact include:
- Contactless payments: Contactless payment methods have increased in frequency and popularity since the onset of COVID-19. Contactless cards use radio-frequency identification (RFID), meaning they transmit a unique signal that a payment terminal will read and authenticate. However, the information on a contactless card can be less secure than a typical credit card, as hackers have created card skimmers and imitation scanners to steal the RFID of your card without ever needing to see the card itself.
- AI and machine learning: AI and machine learning have recently been used to track user data to improve personalized ads and intercept account fraud. This can be useful to all parties, however, privacy concerns around AI include the creation of sensitive consumer data without consent. For example, an AI bot may be able to figure out your area code using GPS signals from your devices.
- Remote work solutions: More companies are offering remote work, with 5 million people in the USA working from home at least half the time according to Global Workplace Analytics. There are many benefits to offering remote work, however, it changes how businesses interact with data privacy. Because remote employees need flexible access to workplace documents, many companies are instituting new security frameworks and authentication protocols.
- New legislation: As the data privacy landscape evolves, so does the legislation coming out surrounding data privacy. Due to the rapidly changing nature of technology, it can be difficult to create hard and fast legislation. However, California has instituted the California Consumer privacy act (CCPA). This act is designed to give consumers a better understanding of what personal information is being collected by company sites, how that information is being sold, and what privacy initiatives are in place. Things like opt-in checkboxes for cookies is one of the ways we’re seeing consumers have greater control over what data can be collected on their devices.
Predictions for the Future of Privacy
Technology and the internet evolve at a breakneck pace, but certain trends can help us predict what the future may hold for data privacy. User attitudes towards data usage and privacy by companies, as well as the ever-present threat of hackers and security risks, are both causing companies and consumers to change the ways they think about and execute privacy measures.
Encryption is the process of encoding data from its original format into a cipher, or code. This not only protects the data by scrambling it, but it also enforces an authorization process for anyone trying to access the data. This authorization process can include entering a password or scanning a fingerprint or ID badge. Once the authorization is approved, then the message or data will become decrypted, or revert to its original form.
As more businesses and institutions migrate to cloud-based services, encryption will likely increase on both internal and external-facing documents. This way, companies can increase data security without compromising on remote accessibility. In industries like healthcare with existing standards, ensuring your cloud-based systems and services are HIPAA compliant may require further levels of security on top of encryption protocols; such standards for security and privacy may proliferate outside of healthcare as the cloud becomes more ubiquitous.
Sacrificing Privacy for Convenience
Despite rising concerns about data security, many users are still willing to sacrifice some of their privacy for convenience and personalization. This can be particularly seen with smart gadgets that contain cameras, microphones, or GPS functions that are always online. The convenience of these gadgets — allowing you to remotely order online, play music, and even access your home’s functions, such as the thermostat and locks — outweighs their privacy and security risks in the eyes of many users.
Greater Control of Data
On the opposite side of the privacy-versus-convenience debate, we’re seeing a rising amount of consumers wanting more control over their data ownership. According to Pew Research, 81% of Americans surveyed believe that the privacy risks of data collection from private companies, and even the government, outweigh the rewards. This trending attitude is one of the driving forces behind legislation around data control, such as the CCPA and the European Union’s general data protection regulation (GDPR).
With access to more data, devices and software solutions can predict what consumers want more accurately. This can result in tailored ads, recommended videos or posts on social media, and even tailored search results. AI and machine learning can help further predictive analytics, however, there are privacy concerns about the speed and creation capabilities of AI data collection.
The Internet of Things, or IoT, describes the relationship between physical products and the sensors, software, and other digital devices that facilitate the exchange of those things over the internet. For example, ordering a product over Amazon’s Alexa is an example of the use of the internet of things.
As our devices continue to get smarter with voice commands and other shortcuts, and as remote ordering and delivery continue to rise in popularity, the IoT is likely to become larger, expanding in both what you can get as well as how you can get it. This can cause privacy issues, as more data is spread across more devices. The security measures used by the companies who make these products may also be called into question as the IoT expands, as using IoT devices creates opportunities for hackers to get into your network, which, in some cases, means access to your physical home.
While trends in attitudes and usage patterns can tell us a lot about where we’re headed concerning the future of privacy, the rapid pace of technological changes doesn’t allow us to predict anything with complete certainty. Being aware of what platforms house your information, and knowing what risk level you’re willing to tolerate when it comes to sharing your data can help you stay on top of the state of your internet privacy.