Privacy Trends for 2020 and Beyond

privacy matters

Privacy has become a major buzzword in 2019 and we do not expect that to go away in 2020. Privacy tech made a splash early this year at the annual CES (Consumer Electronics Show) and has only gathered steam since. 

With widespread attention on corporate mishandling of personal data and new laws being proposed to protect consumer privacy, we’ve seen the topic become a central talking point – not only in business but in wider society as well. 

Unfortunately, tech companies have a perverse incentive to commit privacy violations as long as they don’t get caught. Even governments have been getting in on it: for instance, the DMV in the United States has been quietly selling drivers’ personal data for millions of dollars, and facial recognition technology is increasingly being used worldwide to identify citizens via dragnet surveillance (particularly alarming for people like the protesters in Hong Kong).

So it’s no surprise that people are looking to protect themselves! The following are some trends we’re seeing emerge alongside this burgeoning interest in privacy.

1. Physical protection methods

To safeguard personal data, privacy-conscious individuals are turning to physical solutions like Faraday bags. Drawing on the concept of the Faraday cage – an enclosure that blocks electromagnetic fields – these bags are made of a flexible metallic fabric that accomplishes the same thing. 

How do we know they’re effective? Consider the fact that Faraday bags are widely used by law enforcement to prevent the remote wiping of wireless devices. The bags can even stop thieves from copying your wireless car keys from a distance (such as from outside your house…). 

Then there are the anti-surveillance wearables that thwart facial recognition technology – like the mask by Project KOVR, Hyperface camouflage clothing, and baseball caps with tiny infrared LEDs aimed at the wearer’s face. 

2. Online privacy tools

Savvy consumers are increasingly turning to privacy-boosting tools and services like the search engine DuckDuckGo, messaging app Signal, and encrypted email platform ProtonMail. 

Notably, consumer use of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) is on the rise in the United States. A PCMag survey found that 18% of consumers now use a VPN service on their laptop or desktop, and 6% on their phones. Their reasons? For better security, to safely access public Wi-Fi, to share data securely, and to avoid government surveillance. 

Major tech companies are paying attention and responding to this growth in demand. For instance, Mozilla just released the Firefox Private Network, which is essentially a browser-based VPN – and in general, robust privacy features are a more and more important selling point for newly launched products.

3. Careful use of social media 

We all know just how bad Facebook’s track record is when it comes to user privacy. Cambridge Analytica, anyone? But Facebook isn’t the only big player with a history of sketchy behavior around privacy – and even if users aren’t exactly leaving social media in droves (yet), they’re certainly acting with more caution and discretion.

For instance, more and more people are tightening up their privacy settings and opting out of tracking. The historically steady growth in social media adoption is slowing down, and we’re even seeing a trend where users are taking steps to moderate their use of these sites: think #DeleteFacebook and #SocialMediaBreak. 

Another trend among the younger generation is to maintain dual social media accounts: one public and one private. On Instagram, these may be referred to as “Rinsta” (a real or regular account) and “Finsta” (fake, or for fun/friends). The former is more curated and often more professional in content, conscious of widespread visibility. The latter, on the other hand, is reserved for a private audience of close friends, with more freedom of expression. 

Given that Instagram (and many other social media apps) now allow for fast and easy account-switching, this trend seems poised to spread beyond Gen Z.

4. Increased scrutiny on all platforms

A greater number of consumers are exploring the privacy options available to them on all platforms. For instance, 60% of Americans now block mobile apps from accessing the camera, contact list, and GPS data on their phones – and about half use two-factor authentication to protect their online accounts. 

The increased scrutiny and awareness of online privacy issues are placing pressure on legislators to address the problem, amid resistance from Big Tech – and the battle between the two rages on with no sign of stopping. 

But consumers’ appreciation for privacy shows no sign of stopping, either. Businesses would do well to keep this in mind as the digital world moves ever forward. 

For more on current trends, check out our previous post on analytics trends of 2019.