What will happen to internet privacy in the future?

2 min read
Lexie

Hi, I'm Lexie! I write about information security, Bitcoin, and privacy.

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Unfortunately, we have reached a point where the internet doesn’t work correctly unless we sacrifice some of our privacy. Everything from Twitter to cell phones wants access to our personal information, GPS location, and more.

To most of us, how companies store and use our information is mostly a mystery. There are constant stories about stolen consumer information, yet we still, willingly, give out ours because the alternative is cloud services and social networks locking us out.

If internet privacy has already eroded so much in the present day, what will things be like in the future?

The Internet of Things could put your whole life online

The answer depends on how the internet evolves in the future. One trend that’s expected to change the landscape is the increase in non-computer devices using the internet to connect to cloud services.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is expected to bring everything from washing machines to medical implants online. One advantage of these smart objects is that we’ll be able to control them remotely. Soon, we’ll be able to control everything in our homes with an app.

But smart objects like these rely on sending information about our activities to service providers. Once the majority of devices are online, our whole life will be too.

The age of big data

Personal data collected by companies like Facebook and Google, as well as many others, has already led to the creation of massive and structured databases about customers’ habits. This big data is already used to influence how companies target customers and the design of new products.

The amount of data in the world is growing at an incredible pace—90% of the world’s data was created in the past two years. Currently, 2.5 exabytes (2.5 billion GB) of data is generated every day.

The majority of this data is about us, and what we do online. With data growing at this rate, imagine how much there’ll be in ten years!

Pigeonholed by behavior patterns

One significant way companies already use big data is to find patterns in our behavior. These patterns are used to predict our future behavior, make assumptions about who we are, and sell to us more effectively.

The New York Times has reported that retailers and lenders are already using data on past purchases to predict which customers are likely to make repayments on time. One Canadian retailer found that customers who bought premium birdseed were very likely to make payments on time. Customers who bought skull-shaped car accessories were more likely to miss payments.

Scarily, all customers who fit the latter pattern were rejected for store credit—even if they were new applicants who had not missed payments in the past.

Predicting the future

The trend is that we are sharing more data about ourselves, through more devices. The Internet of Things will increase that further and methods for organizing and analyzing big data are evolving too.

With so much data about our habits available to them, internet companies could soon know more about us than we know about ourselves—including what we’ll do next.

Lexie is the blog's resident tech expert and gets excited about empowerment through technology, space travel, and pancakes with blueberries.