The internet is a fickle thing. It’s hard to make accurate predictions on what it will look like in a month, let alone in a year. But online privacy is a different case altogether. If the upward trajectory of cyberattacks and breaches is anything to go by, then it isn’t hard to figure out.
Technology is moving faster than most people can keep up with. That’s why most cyberattacks continue to succeed. The prevalence of data breaches resulted in online privacy becoming a major talking point in 2019. Ongoing social engineering scams have also continued to be an everyday problem.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. Many people have learned how to protect themselves online. They use antimalware software, endpoint protection, virtual private networks, and the like. But many more are still vulnerable, especially as new attack types rise to the forefront.
So, what’s to come next? Here’s a look at the most prominent internet privacy predictions for 2020.
1. More Stringent Data Privacy Laws
Data collection practices have gotten out of hand. It resulted in lawmakers implementing new regulations to deal with it. Governing bodies realize the need for intervention, and are lobbying for better online privacy legislature.
It started with the GDPR, which went into effect in 2018 to protect the privacy of EU citizens. This trend will continue in 2020 through renewed investment in more stringent data privacy laws. It is starting with the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), as it goes into effect on January 1, 2020.
These laws protect the general citizens, but they will have even more significant implications for enterprises in the coming years. Adopting stronger data protection practices may be costly, but those who don’t comply will watch as fines crush their bottom line.
2. Encryption Becomes More Prominent
There have already been high spikes in VPN downloads from across the world in 2019. And people aren’t using VPNs only to get access to streaming services either — they’ve become a necessary privacy tool.
But encryption isn’t only a concern for the average Joe. It covers many facets of online security, from authentication and passwords to how you get security patches. Web traffic is another area in which encryption use is vital and will become standard practice. Many websites have already switched to the HTTPS format. More browsers are looking at requiring stronger encryption across all web pages. And webmasters who ignore the importance of HTTPS face not only threats to their privacy but also a decrease in Google rankings.
Regulatory implications will start to take hold, as well. Governments have been hesitant to regulate encryption because it’s still a foreign concept to many. But they’re catching up. Thus, 2020 could present some challenges to privacy through more detailed regulations on encryption practices.
3. Internet Shutdowns Will Continue
Six years ago, Mark Zuckerberg released a white paper asking whether connectivity is a human right. Later, he established internet.org with the help of other tech companies. He wanted to make his vision of connecting the world available to everyone. But governments still hold an exceptional amount of influence over the “open” internet. Some governments block access to entire sites. For example, China’s Great Firewall. But that’s not all. Spying has become a surmountable issue. Internet shutdowns were a staple during times of unrest these past few years.
The power that governments hold over the internet has become a significant problem in some countries. Of course, many users find ways to get around these laws, for instance, by using a VPN to avoid geo-blocking. But it’s still a minority. And, unfortunately, the chances of reform aren’t that much likely. World leaders continue to exert influence over internet access and shape new laws around internet use.
4. Companies Will Adopt Stronger Policies
Consumer consent will become mandatory in data collection activities. Enterprises, both those who collect data and those who receive data via partners, will have to follow new regulations. Unless, of course, they want to face hefty fines and risk damaging their reputation. Privacy has become critical across all levels in a company. Ensuring adequate data management and implementing stronger vulnerability precautions will become crucial in daily operations.
For the consumer, this means more clarity on how companies use and share their data. Also, it gives them more control over where their data goes. For employees, it means adapting to new privacy policies and being mindful of how to share and manage data.
5. Organizations Will Increase Their Cybersecurity Budgets
It’s not only policies that will change next year. Knowing the risks, companies will have no option but to increase the budgets dedicated to the prevention of cyber attacks and dealing with consequences in case one happens even so.
For one, companies will need budgets for educating their employees. Everyone in the organization needs to know how to spot phishing scams, recognize insider threats, protect business accounts, etc. But it will not end there. Cybersecurity software is not the cheapest one out there, but it is a must. Antimalware and antivirus software, VPNs, password managers are just the tip of the iceberg. Backups and encryption don’t come cheap either. And even having all the cybersecurity tools at one’s disposal doesn’t guarantee you will prevent a breach or other data privacy catastrophe. So, every company, big or small, needs to set a budget in case the worst-case scenario does happen.
6. More Privacy Issues Will Arise
Technology will continue to play a significant role in everyone’s lives. And, thus, more innovations will appear, some with its own privacy concerns. Take 5G, for example. The internet is flooded with news on how it will change connectivity as we know it. But it also expands the attack surface. It will connect more devices to the Internet of Things, each passing sensitive and personal data and leaving more space for misconfiguration. Location data privacy is another concern with 5G making more precise location pinpointing.
Summary: Change is Coming in 2020
Many corporations had dubious practices in data collection and use. The general lack of intervention from governments in the past made it even worse. But things are starting to look up.
Both regular people and businesses have become more aware of threats to their online privacy. They don’t wait for breaches to happen to take the necessary steps to protect themselves. Privacy has taken a more central spot in 2019, and 2020 will lead the charge for better data protection in the next decade.