Privacy Advisor

2014 Best Predictions for Privacy—and Security

January 28, 2014

By Brian Dean, CIPP/US 

Each year about this time, I pull out my foggy crystal ball and prognosticate the future of privacy and security. For data privacy and security professionals, this year offers optimism, but with looming midterm elections and recent significant data breaches, only subtle privacy improvements are likely. Through that lens, here for 2014 is the Third Annual Top 10 Privacy/Security Trends.

10. Friday Selfie Leads to Manic Monday

Posting selfies and other personal data, including momentary transgressions like that compromising spring break photo, may jeopardize future job opportunities and potential spouses. For example, the person you just “liked” on tinder is now researching you on Linkedin, Facebook and Google, and for $19.95, a data aggregator provides them with your complete background, including criminal, bankruptcy, judgments, liens and other ancillary data. So for 2014, self-deprecation is no longer just for the Kardashians.

9. International Storm, Is There a Safe Harbor?

A 2013 data breach by a government contractor becomes a complex international nightmare. EU Safe Harbor could be in jeopardy for 2014. But the future looks bright for continued trans-border data crossings, as international commerce won’t allow the data flows to cease. Look for additional scrutiny and more prescriptive rules for international data. Thanks Edward Snowden. No really. Thanks! If nothing else, it highlights the need for better controls over internal threats.

8. The Spy Who Loved Me…

No love lost here; the NSA admits to spying but only on non-U.S. citizens. Of course, the rest of the world reads this to mean, “Yea, the United States is spying on our citizens!” International companies like CISCO, Facebook and Google are economically hurt by such disclosures. Then again, NSA later indicated it was reviewing the phone records and e-mails of millions of U.S. citizens. I suspect more covert operations under the guise of protecting us against terrorism, the constitutionality of which will likely be determined in the U.S. Supreme Court.

7. Weather Forecast: Snowden, with More Snowden Expected

Citizens continue to feel powerless against big government. Consumer ambivalence continues as consumers erode their privacy for the sake of convenience and businesses continue amassing huge data stores. So those with access to those data stores, but no “business need,” or those who are able to escalate their privileges with no “business need” will likely repeat Snowden’s actions, assuming the government can still leverage FISA and PRISM-like programs. Hey, it could be worse; we could be commingling numerous major Internet-accessible data stores with known defects and little testing. Oh wait, the Health Insurance Exchange…

6. Connect the Dots

We have been hearing for years that our refrigerators will be able to detect when we are out of milk and add it to a grocery e-List. Not here yet, but we have house alarm cameras synched with our phones so we can open the garage door for package delivery after visually authenticating the delivery person. Then again, the Chevy Impala now self-diagnoses and sends an e-mail to your smartphone to let you know it needs an oil change and the tire pressure is low. Expect more connectivity between devices—coined the “Internet of Things,” more data collection as a result and the security of that data to be an afterthought.

5. Facial Recognition on Steroids

Google Glass was just the beginning. Recon Heads Up display is now available, providing real-time data feeds to skiers. Face Rec, an app due out soon that, once “side-loaded,” will record everyone in the field of vision, including their geolocation data. So after a night out, you can ask the application, “Who did I dance with last night” and actually review the recorded events chronologically. Not far off, Terminator-like recall—ok, minus the cyborg assassin part—where in real-time, the glasses scan faces and provide name, address, age, employer and Facebook marital status!

4. Digital Currency

No, not Bitcoin, but our continued migration to mobile banking. Let’s face it, uploading pictures of checks from your smartphone is way easier than driving to the bank—especially when in line behind grandma depositing her jar of unrolled pennies. We will continue to see consumers migrate to mobile banking and more nefarious individuals looking for vulnerabilities to exploit.

3. Do-It-Yourself Drones

No longer just for the military, 3Drobotics will sell you ready-to-fly drones, but unlike the MQ-9 Reaper, Hellfire anti-armor missiles sold separately. 2014 will continue to see the erosion of privacy from recording devices like police license-plate scanners, red light cameras and, yes, domestically deployed drones—by the U.S. government and Joe Citizen.

2. Data Broker

An oxymoron, since data aggregators are anything but broke. Selling data is lucrative. So expect data to continue to be collected at alarming rates with no means to verify accuracy, age, completeness or security. We can also expect more transparency on what is collected, as the government gets forced disclosure.

And the Number One Privacy Trend for 2014:

1. Big Data, Getting Fatter

OK—forecasted this one last year, and the year before and likely next year. But if consumers don’t demand businesses reduce data collection and data retention periods, we can expect more data collection and perpetual retention. Consumers don’t have lobbyists’ deep pockets, so they need to vote with their e-Wallets and shop businesses that don’t require name, address, SSN, salary and blood type to stream a 1080p sitcom. Then again, security and privacy professionals can continue asking their business leaders, “Do we really need to collect this data? Can we shorten its retention cycle?” Exacerbating the issue, further migration into the cloud—a cloud without international boundaries.

In conclusion, Big Data gets bigger; consumers begin to voice concern but don’t take meaningful action, and legislators start to talk about improving privacy but succumb to the lobbyists who fund their midterm election hopes. So no material privacy legislation again in 2014, unless the EU forces the issue or the FTC is granted/seizes incremental power to drive privacy. Don’t hold your breath … Bottom line for 2014: Mild tailwinds propel new legislation; breaches increase but cost of breaches decreases, and regulatory fines/settlements significantly increase. So those who collect sensitive data should take additional steps to protect it, and those who graciously give up their data for convenience may wish to rethink that strategy upon receiving yet another data breach letter.

Brian Dean, CIPP/US, is currently the privacy officer and manager of the Audit and Compliance Team at SecureState, which provides management consulting information security services for companies internationally. Dean is PCI-SSC as a Qualified Security Assessor, PCIP-certified and previously certified by the Project Management Institute as a Project Manager Professional (PMP).