Trends in online privacy: Revolution vs Resignation

Christian Bennefeld CEO of eBlocker

It’s a myth to believe that the Internet is a free and democratic medium, where anonymous, private information exchange is the norm. Today, says Christian Bennefeld CEO of eBlocker, data is the new fuel.

Personality profiles are harvested with every click, across all the websites we visit and devices we use. Now, companies and consumers are facing a growing concern: privacy.

Next to our purchase interests, profiles reveal very intimate details about our personal lives, such as health status, income level or political affiliation. Even if all of this data is used to make our lives easier, does that make it fair? For instance, the breach in data privacy has even reached the political scene, but not with the potential candidates, instead with the voters.

During the recent U.S. presidential elections, micro targeting was used to deliver the ‘right’ messages to undecided voters. And all of this political cyber hacking doesn’t include one of the latest trends, doxing – the act of exposing a person’s personal information online.

As IoT evolves, protecting your online profile from data gathering is more important than ever. IoT devices such as SmartTVs, WebCams or Online Personal Assistants secretly gather behavioural data and are sending private data back to manufacturers and third party servers. Even selfie apps scanning your thumbprint are just some of the latest trends that showcase the lack of privacy from the Internet.

In addition, as connected devices move into households, reaching behavioural data is even more prevalent now in the offline world. Google’s accounts compile private, yet identifiable profiles to reach a more detailed personality profile of everyone.

In particular, online merchants are exploiting “dynamic pricing” to change the prices for individuals while shopping online based on what the seller knows about them already and based on the device the individual uses (desktop, mobile, tablet, etc.).

Where is this leading to? According to a study from the University of Pennsylvania, 41% of US Internet users have severe concerns about their online privacy, while 58% have already resigned due to the lack of user-friendly protection tools.

Furthermore, 55% of those users strongly disagree that a retailer uses behavioral information to improve their services. Resignation occurs when a person believes an undesirable outcome is inevitable and feels powerless to stop it.

New start-ups are now addressing this gap by building comprehensible solutions for everyone’s data privacy management.

The US has over 2,000 data privacy or security laws, plus the so-called Federal Trade Commission’s Fair Information Practice Principles (FIPPs); and yet, they rank at the top in privacy breaches across the globe. Europe, on the other hand, through cross-border relations between their members, has managed to create an efficient set of laws and has emerged leaders in the data privacy sector.

Following the Snowden case, there was a clear legal void regarding specific trans-border data flow. This was later filled by the privacy shield and received omnibus coverage.

What was once a blessing, the Internet, the ability to privately interact online, has turned out to be the biggest breach of privacy to date. Almost unnoticed, a silent revolution is on its way: Fighting the secret data collection to regain control of everyone’s global privacy.

The author of this blog is Christian Bennefeld CEO of eBlocker

Comment on this article below or via Twitter: @IoTNow_ OR @jcIoTnow

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