As technology enters more and more aspects of everyday life, so does the possibility for third parties to monitor the activity of their users. Some times this happens voluntarily, for example a fitness tracking device purposefully shares the user activities on social media. Other times the tracking is happening under the radar but is still useful to the user, such as content suggestions on streaming services based on browser history. And some times it is against the interest of the user, such as selling bank or medical records to the highest bidder.
The origins of the privacy movement are dated back in 2013 when Edward Snowden revealed a massive government surveillance scheme. It was later reinforced by accusations against the tech giants for monetizing on their user data without their consent, which led to Mark Zuckerberg’s Congress hearing in 2018.
But what started as an activist-driven anti-establishment movement, it is now considered common sense. According to a 2020 study by Consumer Reports, 74% of consumers are at least moderately concerned about the privacy of their personal data, while a whopping 96% agree that more should be done to ensure that companies protect the privacy of consumers. The change in mentality is evident first and foremost in the push for more regulation. Policies such as GDPR enforce online service providers to handle user data in a transparent way.
While the new players are not expected to overtake the tech giants, there is a clear signal that online business will be shifting towards a privacy oriented future. The question that remains is how much functionality is the average user willing to sacrifice to remain anonymous in our connected world.
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