Data privacy and security is one of the main topics across the globe today. More and more people are aware of the potential risks their online activities pose, with 90 percent of respondents to a recent study expressing concern about internet privacy overall.
A number of scandals have brought the potential dangers of data privacy and security breaches to wider attention, highlighting the demand for stronger protective measures. Below, we explore four of the biggest scandals of recent years, all of which affected some of the world’s most well-known brands.
Yahoo: Risking the Privacy of 3 Billion People
Yahoo has been subject to multiple large-scale breaches in the past five years. The biggest one is believed to have compromised three billion user accounts in 2013, though they originally admitted to just one third of these accounts being affected.
Names, email addresses, passwords, dates of birth, and security questions with answers could all have been in danger of falling into the wrong hands. The reason for this? Experts accused Yahoo’s ‘outdated’ encryption of being too easy to crack.
Yahoo quickly reassured users that payment card and bank account details had not been compromised in the breach. They further claimed that, of the full three billion accounts, not all of these were active. Accounts had been created but rarely used — if at all.
Another breach happened in 2014, with names, dates of birth, telephone numbers and email addresses of around 500 million users all at risk. These breaches didn’t go unnoticed by Verizon, which purchased Yahoo in summer 2017 after negotiating a $350 million discount on the purchase price.
eBay: 140+ Million Users Affected
We all know eBay. Even if you’ve never used it before, you’ve heard the name and seen the ads. Millions of buyers / sellers who use it on a regular basis could not expect it.
One of these is the massive data breach that occurred in May 2014. Hackers managed to break into the eBay network (via the credentials of multiple employees) and went on to explore the user database.
EBay reached out to customers and suggested they update their passwords. Users criticized it for their slow detection of the problem (which took around two months). The company claimed no financial information was contained in the database, though, as that is stored elsewhere.
Still, despite this data breach and questionable detection rate, the auction site is still going strong, with more than 170 million users.
Facebook: 50 Million Accounts Affected
Facebook’s still operating in the shadow of the Cambridge Analytica Scandal. However, a fresh problem appeared. A massive data breach believed to have exposed the data of millions. At least 50 million, to be more specific.
The hackers responsible found a vulnerable spot in the social media giant, exposing their users’ personal data. In the days following the breach’s announcement, Mark Zuckerberg reassured users that Facebook had seen no signs of accounts being accessed by outsiders.
He also stressed that information made vulnerable included details like ‘name, gender, and hometowns’.
At the time of writing, Facebook’s investigation into this latest breach is still ongoing. However, they only noticed the vulnerability around two months after it hit the site. Possibly, the hackers had access to data for some time.
Google: Location Markers, GDPR and a Mega-Fine
Google is a company we all depend on at times, whether we’re searching for information in a hurry or buying the latest Android phone. However, the company has come under fire in recent months for monitoring users’ location even when they’re entirely unaware of it.
Campaigners have warned that EU users are unable to provide informed consent to be tracked as often as they are, and GDPR regulations could see Google issued with a colossal fine (either two or four percent of turnover).
According to investigation, location tracking may have continued even when users thought they had disabled the function. Also, provided warnings were ‘misleading’. The prospect of being ‘tracked’ by a corporation is a fairly unsettling prospect, particularly if people have no awareness of it, but there’s no doubt location-tracking via GPS is a hugely beneficial tool.
GPS monitoring and tracking is a convenience we’re all grateful for at times. Companies have a huge responsibility to use it ethically. Data privacy and security must go hand in hand with location tracking to protect users’ rights. Hopefully, Google will continue to reinforce its users’ privacy. Furthermore, it will take those steps deemed necessary to avoid further controversy in the future.
We all want to feel safe and secure online, whether we’re browsing a small ecommerce site or a global giant. The increased attention is paid to online data privacy and security. It shows an ongoing demand for businesses to offer users the best protection available.
It’s in a company’s best interests to invest in cutting-edge security tools to avoid breaches. Also, it is necessary to minimize damage to their reputation, user-base and future. Do any of the scandals discussed above give you pause for thought regarding your online activities? What changes would you like to see introduced? Share your thoughts below!