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ACCEPT
OCT. 01, 2021

Online Privacy

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.

This shift of regulations follows a shift in consumer behavior. For example, it is expected that every major communication platform today is end-to-end encrypted. When Whatsapp changed its privacy policy in the beginning of 2021, suspicions of less transparency led to a significant flow of users leaving Whatsapp for alternatives that provided more privacy features. Messaging apps such as Signal and Telegram, which were insignificant competitors, saw an increase of users up to 40x week on week. We see similar trends on other services, such as web searches and cloud services, with a move towards apps that promise not to store or exploit user data in any way. Some of those, such as the no-tracking search engine DuckDuckGo or the zero-knowlegde encrypted ProtonDrive cloud have seen great growth in the recent months. Finally, people are more concerned about government surveillance or censorship, especially in authoritarian countries. In those cases VPN services thrive, as they provide secure access to the free internet through connection tunnels.

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.

We thank you for the continued support.

The FAM team