Privacy and the Internet

February 9, 2018 • Volume 28, Issue 6
Can massive data breaches be stopped?
By Ellen Kennerly


The Bluetooth-enabled doll My Friend Cayla (Cover: AFP/Getty Images/Leon Neal)
The Bluetooth-enabled doll My Friend Cayla and other connected devices that are part of the Internet of Things can threaten privacy if they are hacked, experts say. Privacy advocates, who warn that it is becoming more difficult to protect privacy, call for more regulation. (Cover: AFP/Getty Images/Leon Neal)

Nearly 2 billion consumer records were stolen or accidentally exposed in the United States last year, including personal data on nearly half the U.S. population held by the Equifax credit agency. The data breaches raise questions about whether consumers’ information can be protected. Privacy advocates want lawmakers to adopt rules similar to those in Europe, which require consumer consent before companies can use or share data. Congress is considering bills that would penalize companies that conceal breaches and would educate consumers on how to better safeguard their data. But little action is expected because of disagreements over how much regulation is needed. Many Republicans warn that excessive regulation could harm online commerce, while most Democrats want greater business accountability. Technological developments make it more difficult to protect online privacy, while the rapid expansion of the Internet of Things — in which consumer devices are connected to the internet and sometimes each other — makes hacking easier and could lead to the surveillance of unwitting consumers.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Feb. 09, 2018  Privacy and the Internet
Dec. 04, 2015  Privacy and the Internet
Oct. 25, 2013  Big Data and Privacy
Aug. 30, 2013  Government Surveillance
Jan. 25, 2013  Social Media Explosion
Sep. 17, 2010  Social Networking
Nov. 06, 2009  Online Privacy Updated
Nov. 17, 2006  Privacy in Peril
Jun. 15, 2001  Privacy Under Attack
Nov. 06, 1998  Internet Privacy
Nov. 19, 1993  Privacy in the Workplace
Apr. 17, 1992  Politicians and Privacy
Jan. 20, 1989  Your Right to Privacy
Mar. 21, 1986  Privacy in the Workplace
Oct. 18, 1974  Rights to Privacy
Apr. 05, 1967  Wiretapping and Bugging
Apr. 20, 1966  Protection of Privacy
Nov. 09, 1961  Wiretapping in Law Enforcement
Feb. 29, 1956  Surveillance of Spying
Jan. 25, 1956  Eavesdropping Controls
Mar. 14, 1949  Wire Tapping
Computers and the Internet
Consumer Behavior
Consumer Credit and Debt
Consumer Protection and Product Liability
Crime and Law Enforcement
Federal Courts
Financial Institutions
Freedom of Information
Internet and Social Media
Popular Culture
Regulation and Deregulation
Supreme Court History and Decisions
Telecommunications and Wireless Technologies