WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO YOUR PERSONAL DATA IN 2021 AND WHY YOU SHOULD CARE?
2020 has finally ended. Let’s take a step back and wonder what 2021 will be made of. Instead of listing data privacy regulations or big tech lawsuits, here are 3 issues that every user should be aware of.
1. NO MORE ONLINE TRACKING? Not exactly.
First, two reminders:
- Whenever you see a banner “we are using third-party cookies” pop and click on the “accept all” button, your consumer behaviour is being tracked across websites to generate a virtual user profile. All in all, third-party cookies are the reason why you are under the impression that Google is listening to your thoughts
- Together Google and Apple web browsers and smart mobile Oss are the gateways to third party cookies.
Unsurprisingly each decisions Google and Apple make changes the user’s perception of the internet. In 2020 they both decided to radically change the rules. Google announced its decision to “phase out” third-party cookies in Chrome within two years in favor of a “a set of open standards to fundamentally enhance privacy on the web”. On the occasion of the Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple announced that in 2021 every app will have to collect user’s consent before tracking personal data within the App Tracking Transparency (ATT) framework. If an app doesn’t comply with ATT framework, it will disappear from the App Store.
How will this affect the user ? Let’s be clear, those initiatives are good news for user’s privacy. Above all, ATT framework is a milestone on the data privacy path to the point where Facebook runned two ads accusing Apple of hurting small businesses.
What will actually change? Before, user’s consent was lost and buried in the privacy setting now, it’s inevitable when you open an app.
However, on the business side Google “vague proposals” are leaving the ad tech industry in the dark. In the end, a pattern is starting to arise: hurting small businesses thriving on tracking users, or protecting users’ privacy. But let’s not be blind, in the long run it might strengthen Google and Apple’s dominant position.
2. MORE DATA BREACHES? For sure.
Second, whether that through contact tracing apps, students hiding from Protoctorio, or online shopping, personal data is being collected and processed more than ever. Thus, more users are exposed to breaches and hacks. 2020 will be known as the year where one of the most sophisticated cyber-attack in history was accidentally discovered: SolarWinds hacking.
How can you prevent it ? The SolarWinds hacking exposed in broad daylight government and federal weaknesses. Sophisticated cyber defense or information sharing, don’t answer the user’s major question: how can I increase my safety on the internet ? To begin with, at individual level the user safety could be increased by applying a few tips. Nevertheless that will never be enough. Without better encryption techniques to anonymize personal and metadata data, a strong unique password is useless.
3. WHAT WILL HOLD EVERYONE’S ATTENTION? Your face.
Finally, let’s finish on a more personal note with your most singular asset: your face. Due to Clearview, moving anonymously in a public space might be impossible. Paradoxically, the face belongs both to the public and intimate sphere. However, Clearview erases the frontier separating these two worlds. By leveraging every picture from social media, Clearview is bringing data privacy to a whole new level. It is therefore possible to identify everybody: from an activist in a protest, to a father doing groceries. This loss of privacy is only the tip of the iceberg. Indeed, if facial recognition softwares rely on a non-exhaustive database, the consequences could be unprecedented. In the worst case scenario when facial recognition is used for law enforcement A black man was wrongfully arrested because of facial recognition — The Verge. Oh wait, it already happened more than twice !
In 2020 thanks to the Social Dilemma and antitrust lawsuits, we witnessed a rising awareness toward online advertising, more generally data privacy. We should not stop here. Despite good news on online tracking, warnings about the dangers of facial recognition and cybersecurity portray a pretty bleak 2021. But in order to change this scary reality we, users need to stay informed and vigilant. Regulations will never come without a change in consumer behaviour.