The First Battlegrounds For Renewed Privacy

Whether you recognize it or not, we all have technically consented to a lot of data collection. This happens through terms agreed to every time we visit a new website, on our phones, software and service agreements, and legal disclosures. The genie is out of the bottle and there’s no going back. Real privacy fled the coop a long time ago. The decline of privacy started with little events that exploited our desire for convenience to where it stands today, practically nonexistent. It happened the first time any of us shared an email with a retailer or joined a digital savings program. Sharing and storing credit cards and bank account information were right there in that mix – convenient because at some point we gained the ability to order and pay instantly but frightening because critical data about us is right there.

Privacy Used to be Simple

Let us roll back to the beginning of “the web.” It started when the first two computers got interconnected and grew from there. The nature of data at this stage was decentralized. If Person A at Computer A wanted to send something to Person B at Computer B, there was a way to do that, and you had to select what you wanted to share. Exchange of data: complete.

Today, the locus of data has completely changed. Every time you make a call, every time you make a purchase, every time you work out, every time you drive to the park, and almost everything you do is sending information somewhere out there where it is collected. Data has become centralized, and it has been collected by megacompanies, social networks, data brokers, and governments. That same collected data has been repeatedly leaked, as we recently saw in the huge data leak of one billion Chinese citizens records that were allegedly stolen from a police database.

A massive inventory of entrusted data is out there, reminiscent of Big Brother, collected by surveillance, information gathering, and Big Data. Centralized app nodes around the world operate under the influence of extremely powerful organizations, collecting, storing, and analyzing the data of billions of people, including you and me. It is a guarantee that if you’re reading this, somebody can find that information.

New Tech Makes It Worse

The idea isn’t to pick on high tech companies that make use of data, but only to point out that final throes of privacy myths have long expired. You can feel it when you bring up a random conversation somewhere by your device, and later have an advertisement come up related to that conversation. You know that privacy as we conceptualize it doesn’t exist when we look at technologies such as:

· Surveillance and security cameras: Whether completely visible or hiding in plain sight, modern cameras and the networks they run on have AI, orchestration capabilities, and face recognition that can track, monitor, and identify individuals. In many metropolitan areas, there is hardly a spot that isn’t covered by some type of camera. China actively uses them for full-on surveillance, as well as for computing the social credit score of individuals.

· Emerging IoT devices: Things like the Apple AirTag are justifiably concerning. These extremely affordable, tiny tracking devices can affix to, or be hidden in many places. As long as there’s someone with an iPhone nearby, the range on AirTags is practically infinite.

· Retailer facial recognition technologies: Targeted marketing works better when the target is as specific as your identity. All of your shopping trends, income, and related data have extreme value when focused on your likeness.

· Stingray cell phone trackers: These have been around for a while in the hands of law enforcement and other government agencies. These devices make it possible to track any person down, regardless of their personal settings and behavior.

Hopefully, you get the idea that there is no shortage of devices and systems out there that are interconnected and are gathering, distributing, and analyzing information about you. You can find these privacy invaders in your smartphone, your automobile, at the store, on the road or street, on your television, and so on.

What We Wanted and What We Got

In many cases, this collection is perfectly fine, as long as the data is protected. Data loss is a major concern that affects us all. Data abuse however is an equally concerning matter. Using data, organizations have the power to manipulate human behavior.

Law enforcement, governments, and corporations have all faced public scrutiny about the balance of personal information that exists under their operations. Consent and awareness are not always given by the individual, and that has many people focused to gain back a semblance of privacy.

We Deserve Better

People have experienced breach fatigue, and they wish to address their personal safety. According to the latest data breach report by IBM and the Ponemon Institute, the cost of a data breach $4.24 million, which includes fines and remediation. The scary fact is just 60% of companies that are hit with a breach survive after six months.

Governments, and companies are responding to this awareness as they have realized they played on the edge for too long. For example, Apple recently introduced tracking permissions pop-up options on their iPhone products. Facebook continues its efforts to protect personal data through tighter user-based control options. Changes in Facebook advertising audience options promise to emphasize privacy concerns. And data protection rules continue to take hold, inspired by and ushered in by the granddaddy European GDPR measures.

Awareness of the data privacy invasion is becoming more real by the day. Entailing costly remediation activities and reputational damage, a data breach isn’t just a concern for cybersecurity officers anymore.

A data breach has become an existential issue for the whole business that concerns CEOs, CFOs, boards, and investors.

This article was originally published in Forbes, please follow me on LinkedIn.