Privacy concerns will reach a tipping point in 2016, forcing regulators and companies to take action to better protect privacy. Forrester Research made the prediction in a report issued this month as part of its predictions for the year to come.
Businesses that collect, store and use people’s data are most at risk of attracting hackers and regulatory oversight, Forrester said. The data brokers also stand to suffer the most when consumers decide to prioritize privacy over convenience, something that is already beginning to shape online behavior as consumers attempt to protect themselves from privacy abuses or identity theft.
Forrester’s 2016 privacy report notes the following trends:
• More Internet-based businesses will offer “fremium” models, offering consumers the option to pay (or pay more) for fewer ads, with more privacy.
• More users will begin using software that blocks ads when they are browsing. Forrester says about 26% of American adults currently use ad blocking tools, but that number may double over the next year.
• More regulations for cookies and trackers may be in the pipeline at the state and local level. Forrester says that many businesses are becoming uncomfortable with the amount of data that companies like Facebook can collect from a “Share on Facebook” icon, noting that Facebook can see every user’s activity, not just the activity of those who click “like”.
These predictions are good news for consumers who are worried about their privacy. But they don’t alleviate the very real threat of identity theft and other serious consequences that consumers face from the profiles compiled by data brokers. In fact, FTC commissioner Julie Brill told Congress in 2014 that the problem was already so widespread that consumers can no longer protect their privacy and personal information from identity thieves without outside help.
What’s Missing from Forrester’s Predictions
The Forrester report cites some positive steps for consumers, such as more regulatory oversight, and more care taken by companies who unknowingly feed information to the data brokers. 2016 will also see a new law in Europe that may curb some of the excesses. Few companies will want to risk the loss of up to 5% of global revenues for violating the European Union’s new data protection law, so global companies are expected to take steps to better protect the personally identifiable information they hold about customers, employees, and partners.
But the problem isn’t the kind of data breach or lax security that the EU’s law is designed to address. It’s that there is a whole industry of data brokers out there who gather public and private data from offline and online sources, and then market that data to third parties.
Some of the information these data brokers gather about all of us comes from government sources such as property tax rolls, and some comes from the information we voluntarily give up when we register a product as part of the warranty process or sign up for an online service. By matching the offline and online data about individuals, the data brokers are able to create amazingly detailed profiles of each person’s behavior, likes, dislikes, finances, health, and political opinions.
How to Protect Yourself
Most of the marketers who buy profiles from the data brokers want to use the information to better target their advertising and content marketing. And most Americans don’t mind it when someone delivers information they’re interested in rather than spamming them with information that doesn’t apply.
The trouble is that the same information a marketer uses to decide whether or not you should view a video about a new sports car or a family SUV can be used to help an identity thief masquerade as you. The problem is huge:
• 15 million Americans face identity theft every year.
• 85% of ID theft cases use information from existing accounts.
• Identity theft costs Americans and American businesses 50 billion per year.
It isn’t enough to carefully monitor what kind of data you enter online. There have been many identity thieves who don’t use the Internet – elderly and retired people are at special risk.
For a growing percentage of Americans, the best protection from ID theft is a service like IdentaLocker that can ensure that your personal information and identity are safe and secure. After years of research and testing, the IdentaLocker service protects customers before and after their personal information has been compromised.
Waiting for the government to tighten controls, or for businesses to take steps to curb the abuses just doesn’t make sense for most of us. It’s time to take action to protect ourselves, and that means getting help from an established company with experience in helping Americans facing identity theft.