In 2021, we saw a lot of new advancements in privacy with companies such as Mozilla launching a VPN service, and HTTPS further becoming a default mode in browsers. On top of that, thanks to more scandals involving social media, Big Tech companies, massive data breaches and more, we saw more and more people taking privacy more seriously or at the very least opening their eyes and starting to ask some questions.
So, what does all of this mean for 2022? Well, the future is unwritten, but I think we can start to theorize about what the year to come will mean for privacy and the protection of our personal data.
To get the ugly out of the way, I do think 2022 will lead to some new privacy legislation or attempts at new legislation that weaken encryption laws - not only in the US but around the world. Governments of all kinds hate the fact that citizens can communicate and share information and that they have no access to said data. Companies like Proton Mail have been targeted by their governments for data on activists, and Signal, the popular end-to-end encrypted messaging platform saw a handful of attempted warrants on user information.
Much to the disappointment of law enforcement, Signal was not able to give up any usable data, and I think we can expect laws to attempt to change that and force the creation of backdoors.
However, I don’t believe 2022 will be all bad. Social media platforms such as Mastodon, the federated, privacy-focused alternative to Twitter and Facebook continue to gain in popularity offering people a viable alternative in social media.
Along with social media, we are seeing users moving away from the every day Big Tech search engines and trying alternatives for the first time. Billboards devoted to private search and encouraging people to move away from the prying eyes of surveillance capitalism and trying out a private search are popping up around the country.
Browsers are beginning to put more search engines such as Startpage in their search engine options as a default, allowing users to finally have some choice when choosing which search engine to use.
And when it comes to Startpage, we are seeing innovations continue to flow. With the release of local weather information, currency exchange rates, and language translation, I predict we will continue to see the company expand its offerings and give users little reason to go anywhere else.
But more importantly than any product or service, I believe that 2022 will be the year that most of the people on this planet realize they must act in order for privacy to be taken seriously. Switching to privacy-focused products is great, and passing privacy laws can be beneficial as well, but for real change to take place, everyone needs to demand it and say enough is enough.
Support for those profiting off data exploitation will begin to see massive drops in 2022 because people are seeking alternatives while also demanding the products they know, and love begin to take privacy more seriously.
And with any hope, these companies will finally admit it’s possible. Startpage has proven you don’t need to track your users to successfully display ads and run a successful and profitable business and they are not alone. Big tech is supposed to thrive on innovation, yet they continue to use old-school methods of data mining and exploitation to turn a profit. In 2022, it’s time they learn the old way is no longer profitable.
I won’t be so bold as to label 2022 the “Year of Privacy,” but I will be shocked if by 2023 we aren’t reflecting on such a claim and watching not only the rise of privacy consciousness, but the explosion of companies racing to meet the privacy standards of everyday internet users and those like Startpage, who have made privacy their focus since their founding will be the leaders of this new generation of privacy hungry users.
Because the truth is, all the predictions and innovations in the world are meaningless if we don’t as a people decide we are finally going to take our data seriously and realize we should, and can, have technological advances as awesome as Alexa or Siri without having to give up our right to privacy, we just need Big Tech to realize we are more than dollar signs, and we can and will pull the plug if they don’t catch up.
So as we ring in the New Year, let’s make our collective resolution to say out with old Big Tech way of life, and cheer on the dawn of a privacy revolution in which we, the user, take control and Big Tech either get on board, or find new day jobs.