Privacy became an increasingly important topic throughout 2019 as a number of major data breaches and privacy scandals raised concerns that consumers couldn’t rely on big tech companies to be good stewards of their data.
The conversation has inspired a number of different responses—like new governmental legislation and corporate policies—that we’ll begin to see the effects of this year. These will come on the heels of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), sweeping regulations in Europe that took effect in May 2018 aimed at protecting the personal information of individuals (in fact, this website complies with GDPR).
Here is how tech privacy in the U.S. is expected to evolve in 2020—and the new privacy rights and options that consumers can expect to gain.
New Privacy Rights in California Have Knock-On Effects
The biggest legislative response was a law passed in California, which privacy experts consider to be the most comprehensive piece of digital privacy legislation ever signed into U.S. law. It’s called the California Consumer Privacy Act, or CCPA, and it provides a slew of new privacy rights for consumers.
For the first time, under CCPA California consumers will be able to opt out of having their data sold to third parties. The law also allows these consumers access to the data that a given company or website has collected on them, as well as the right to request this information be deleted.
Under the law, companies also won’t be able to charge higher rates or deny services to customers who exercise their privacy rights.
The law only provides these protections to citizens of California, but it’s likely that all US customers will benefit due to the difficulty of sorting out requests from California customers from those of others—and the potential consequences of failing to provide Californians with their guaranteed data rights.
You may have already noticed a few websites have added options to their websites or settings pages that allow you to control what data they collect and make requests to have your data expunged.
Every company subject to the law, however—which includes most companies with customers or websites in California—already need to have an email or toll-free number where you can submit privacy-related requests.
Depending on the company, however, getting your data deleted may take more than a request. You may need to furnish some kind of identification so that companies can verify you’re only requesting your info.
Companies Respond to Privacy Concerns
Some companies, concerned about what poor data security might mean for their image, are going even further.
Amazon’s Ring unit, for example, was the subject of a scandal last year as it became clear that Ring user data wasn’t being kept safe. Hackers posted Ring user account credentials online for laughs and Amazon came under fire for its partnerships with police departments that provided data from Ring cameras to officers without user consent.
Now, the company is adding new privacy features to the Ring infrastructure that will give users more control over how their information gets stored and shared with third parties. The new features specifically include settings that allow users to opt out of video requests from police departments and restrict third-party service connections.
Other major tech companies have also announced similar upgrades to privacy options — like Google, which showed off Google Assistant’s new privacy settings at this year’s CES.
Experts have long been worried about the privacy implications of always-online tech that is constantly listening—and possibly recording. These new features could help reassure customers about what kind of data is being collected, and who ultimately has access to it.
Evolving Data Privacy Protections
As more and more consumer data has moved online—and as consumers have come to depend on corporations to safeguard their data—data privacy has become a huge topic of concern. The conversation around privacy has inspired new legislation—like the CCPA—and updates to corporate policies regarding consumer data.
While significant changes are being made, they probably don’t signal an end to the conversation. It’s likely that data privacy will be a big topic through 2020.