7 Online Privacy Predictions for 2013

2012 Turns to 2013As we’ve discussed before, 2012 was a great year for online privacy. Policy has finally started catching up with technology, aggressive data collection tactics used by large corporations fell under scrutiny, and internet users proved they’re willing to stand up to their rights to privacy, even in this crazy web2.0 era.

All that said, 2013 is going to be an even bigger year for online privacy and its advocates. Here are 7 predictions for the future of digital privacy in the coming year:

1. Private social networks become en vogue.

2012 set the stage. The private social networks are there, and 2013 is the year when the mass public will discover alternate ways to share their lives with loved ones online, without worrying about who might be watching. Truthfully, this prediction is part of the reason we created Sgrouples as the World’s Private Social Network; this is what people will want. After the myriad privacy scandals, lawsuits, and policy changes we saw in 2012, many internet users are fed up and ready to take action. Social media power users who have been oversharing personal details for the past 6 years are now looking for a more discreet way to stay connected with their real-life friends and family.

So if you’re one of those users looking for a safer way to share – without worry of who retains ownership of your content or what strangers might see your post – sign up for a free account at Sgrouples and join the online privacy revolution!

2. The number of data breaches will increase.

Big data is in. The majority of social networks and web services have found ways to collect large amounts of data about users and surfing habits, and then sell that data to advertisers or other interested 3rd parties. With this much data constantly in flux, there has also been an increase in opportunistic hackers who have tried to illegitimately access that data. In July, someone got access to passwords for 400,000 Yahoo accounts, and in October it was revealed a 3rd party vendor was selling data on 1,000,000 Facebook users for just $5. Well folks, big data isn’t going anywhere in 2013, and where there’s more opportunity you can bet there’s going to be more hackers and major data breaches. Be smart about what you post online; if it’s personal or highly sensitive content your best bet is to keep it off the internet altogether.

3. The mass public will finally be educated about online safety basics.

Online SafetyPerhaps the biggest obstacle to better user privacy online is users themselves. Many of the tools to protect your online privacy, from browser plug ins to advanced privacy settings on most social networks. For many years the data collection tactics of large websites and online safety best practices have not been widely known. However, as big companies like Facebook and Google get more and more in the limelight, online privacy is starting to get major press coverage on a regular basis. As these topics get more widespread coverage, users will become more educated about the issues in online privacy, and simple steps they can take to solve their problems.

This is why we started the Practice Safe Sharing Educational Outreach campaign, a non-profit campaign for educating high school students and youth about best practices for protecting themselves online and being good digital citizens. In the case of protecting yourself online, a little prevention goes a long ways. For more information on the campaign or how to get involved click here!

4. Offline tracking will become even more prominent.

In the early days of the internet, tracking was mostly limited to following behaviors within the confines of a single website. Then new technologies evolved to track your behavior everywhere you go on the internet. As long as you’re logged in to your Facebook or Google account, or happened to pick up the right tracking cookie while browsing, everything you do online can be monitored to give a broader picture of who you are. Well, now we’re starting to see this tracking behavior creep into the real world. The primary vehicle for this kind of offline tracking is your trusty smartphone – say it isn’t so! 

The problem is apps; many apps require access to much more information than they really need. Just the other day I installed a flashlight app that was asking to access my location via GPS. Why would a flashlight ever need to know where I am? This was really a sneaky attempt by an app to gather information on users who were in too much of a rush to read what they were agreeing to. And if you’re logged into your Facebook app, and it has permission to access your location? Congratulations, you are now being followed everywhere you go, online or off. This is only going to increase in 2013, so make sure to double check what apps you’re letting access your smartphone data.

5. We’ll see at least 1 major internet protest.

Internet Protest2012 had a few notable cases of internet users rallying to defend their rights. Most notably was the SOPA/PIPA protest back in January, and then the recent outcry over the Instagram privacy policy updates. Given the attention privacy scandals are sure to receive in 2013, it’s only a matter of time before the internet finds something to rally around. My bet is on either some kind of new data tracking legislation that goes too far, or an unpopular update by a major player such as Google, Facebook, or Twitter. Time will tell.

6. Online Reputation Management becomes compulsory.

Online Reputation Management became popular in 2011, a household name in 2012, and in 2013 is well on its way to becoming compulsory for any serious business or professional. The fact is that everyone looks everything up on the internet these days. While that may be a *slight* exaggeration, there’s a hefty dose of truth in there as well. Employers are looking up job candidates. Consumers are researching brands. Almost every major life decision is accompanied by a Google search, and what the end user sees may make or break your first impression. In the past online reputation management has been focused on keeping negative information hidden, but in 2013 we’ll see a shift in focus to promoting positive information above all else. If you’re a business, you want those 4 & 5 star Yelp reviews to be the first thing a potential customer sees. If you’re a professional, start a high quality blog in your name to show up whenever someone Googles you. First impressions can make or break you on the web – what impression will you make in 2013?

7. Mobile privacy (particularly geolocation) comes under scrutiny.

I already touched on this briefly, but the issues with mobile platforms are brewing the perfect storm for 2013. In fact, mobile internet use is predicted to overtake desktop internet use by the end of the year! Most of this through smartphones, although that figure does include tablets as well. We’ve discussed the problems with geolocation and SoLoMo (social-local-mobile) apps before, and 2013 is the year where these services will blossom. Problem? These apps make you an incredibly easy person to stalk, not to mention all the local data collection issues mentioned in prediction #4. 2013 will hopefully give us some concrete policy changes about how mobile data may be handled, both through apps and through mobile service providers.


To sum up, 2013 is going to be the year of the user. If my predictions hold true, we should see some positive legislation protecting user privacy, along with mass education about how to protect oneself online and what data 3rd parties can access. It is important to acknowledge that privacy itself isn’t the future of the internet. Perhaps the most exciting aspect of the social web is the ability to connect and share ideas with people from all over the world. In that sense, the internet will stay an extremely public place. I’m simply suggesting that in 2013, privacy will come on in a big way for those who truly care about it, with real options like Sgrouples for users who want to keep things private.

So what do you think? Feel free to include your own predictions in the comments =)


Images from: http://blog.duoconsulting.com/2012/10/18/2013-marketing-technology-trends-online-predictions/, http://educationassociates.com/lifelong-learning-kit/internet-safety/, http://www.nationalturk.com/en/turkey-protests-new-internet-filter-system-internet-censorship-11904