Understand the issue


The internet is where we could live, love, learn and communicate freely. To be ourselves, we need to be able to trust the systems that protect us.

A tectonic shift in public awareness about privacy and security in the digital world has occurred in the past year. Some are even calling it “the great privacy awakening.”

In 2018, news broke that data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica had harvested data of millions of Facebook users, without their knowledge, and used it for political purposes — including attempts to influence elections in the United Kingdom and the United States.

Public outrage was swift and widespread. Campaigns to make Facebook private by default and to ask users to delete the platform outright took off. Nearly three-quarters of Americans and Canadians reported tightening their Facebook security or distancing themselves from the site altogether. Facebook was grilled in the U.S. Congress and the Canadian House of Commons, fined by the U.K. and sued by the District of Columbia. The company’s stock plummeted.

All this was a symptom of a much larger, systemic issue: the dominant business model and currency of today’s digital world is based on gathering and selling data about us.

Our datarich digital age have some benefits. Streaming music services recommend songs, based on what we’ve listened to. Voice recognition technology lowers barriers to access to the internet. City planners have access to more data. Yet, as devices on our streets and in our homes gather more data, a fundamental question remains: Are we too exposed?

Does our awareness extend to making informed choices about commercial DNA tests? Or the privacy settings for apps and online services. We should know the risks of ransomware attacks, why strong passwords are vital and how to judge the security of devices we buy.

We can also support products and services that protect and respect our privacy — like the Tor and Firefox browsers — and demand that other companies do better.

But the responsibility for a healthy internet cannot rest on the shoulders of individuals alone. Just in 2018, millions of people were affected by breaches at Google, Facebook, Quora, Marriott and many others. Over 1 billion Indian citizens were put at risk by a vulnerability in Aadhaar, the government’s biometric ID system. Telecommunications providers, including Telus, AT&T and Sprint, were caught selling customers’ location data. We need more protection from companies and governments.

There were also bright spots in the last year. Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into effect, and digital rights organizations are collaborating to ensure it is enforced. Public pressure caused several hackable toys to be pulled off the shelves.

Mark Zuckerberg recently stated that he is committed to “a privacy-focused vision for social networking.” But Facebook is also under criminal investigation for data sharing deals with companies including Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and Sony. It’s going to take more than words to rebuild the trust that’s been lost, not only with Facebook but in the internet overall.

Calls for more privacy regulation are on the rise around the world, some inspired by the idea that companies should treat our data with the same care that a bank would treat our money.

The debate about the dominant business model of the internet — and its implications for the privacy and security of our digital lives — will undoubtedly continue in the years to come. As it does, it’s important that we remember the current reality is a human creation, not a technological inevitability. We built this digital world, and we have the power to change it.

What matters to you in this issue?

  1. Anonymous

    The addictive nature of devices means that people spend too much time on trivial activities that they could be spending reading books and learning knowledge that could have the effect of making them more free and autonomous in their lives.

  2. Final Reflection – Site Title

    […] to such as social media. Articles such as “Your mobile apps are tracking you” and “Understand the issue” tackled some pretty interesting issues that made me more aware of the dangers I was facing in my […]

  3. Digital Literacies Blog Post: – Zeina's blog

    […] Another three articles that I thought that they are very important for all of us. First, the article titled “Understand the Current Issue” is one of the most critical articles that I have come across, as the article mainly discusses how the internet is invading the privacy of many of the users. In other words, the article mentioned that “…..that data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica had harvested data of millions of Facebook users, without their knowledge, and used it for political purposes”. How this is even possible? and I couldn’t even imagine myself posting something on my PRIVATE Facebook account, and later on, I find out that it is out for everyone. Almost all of the internet applications do invade our privacy because focuser we all know that when we search for a specific thing on Facebook for example, after a while we found several advertisements about this specific thing that we have been searching for, and this is when Facebook is is having access to our searching data for its advantage. So I think this is when a Digital literacy part should be important, because it is true to be aware of everything we sign up to, and everything we post, and write on our account, as most of our private accounts are not private. In my opinion, this is very humiliating because why should anyone get any of my private posts, out for the public? my private posts should not be revealed by any means, only even I decided to.  https://internethealthreport.org/2019/understand-the-issue-privacy-and-security/ […]

  4. Eric M

    For me it's very overwhelming to know how little control people have over their own information. I feel very strongly that people need to become more educated about the web and aware of the news that surrounds it. I feel very doubtful of the future for people and their privacy because most people feel discouraged navigating interfaces to simply reset an account password even with explicit instructions listed.

    My question would be how do you get the public to care about such an issue when their lives are weighed by both personal and world issues?

  5. Mario Vargas

    It's really a big problem, because we don't understand the risk level of this kind of practices yet.

  6. Joseph

    I think it's impossible for me to describe how I feel.

    One thing for sure: I need urgent psychological support, by very good professionals. And I need to get away from the internet for a while. And I don't even know exactly what happened, but I feel sandboxed by strangers who know things about me. I was blackmailed countless times, swindled, hoaxed, as you prefer. I lost every faith in myself and humanity. Am I the only one? Who knows. I am to blame? Yes, more than for the 70%. Maybe I will never recover.

  7. Anonymous

    I agree that our privacy is very important. Protection is vital to everyone when it comes to keeping the usage of the internet. This has been ongoing issue for many. I'm grateful for this report.

  8. Austin Roggen

    I believe that Social Media platforms should, by default, allow users to EASILY navigate their privacy settings. Some platforms use too much tech terminology for laymen to be able to understand what their directly impacting when selecting "Yes" or "No" to a privacy question. Data Security is the first step to seeing the Internet get another great bloom.

  9. Tamie

    No comment just a question?

  10. Dick Butler

    Repression is the vehicle for Autocracy. George Orwell, modern China, Cuba, the former East Germany, and Venezuela both model, and warn, of hazards attending societal wide loss of privacy.

    The essential ingredient of autocracy is centralized control. Data is the key.

    By alerting readers to the issue, this Mozilla report fills a need. But, it is late!

  11. Brian

    Nicely put together report. If people can be educated in to challenging what is presented to us as default settings when creating accounts on apps, the n we have a chance of contoling the digital environment

  12. Nancy Sellars

    Thank you for having this report on your website. Sharing this vital information is extremely important now and into the future. I believe there are many people world wide that give this information no thought at all for several reason. The health of the internet is a reflection of who we are as citizens of this planet.

    Much respect and appreciation to Mozilla and everyone who is making a visionary contribution to health of the internet.

    Nancy Sellars

  13. Terri

    Thank you Mozilla for this report regarding internet health. It is an area that has me extremely concerned. Please continue to report these issues to us. I have lost faith and trust in many internet organizations (Google, Facebook, etc.). It is a shame because you want to keep up with family and friends, especially when they live at a distance, but we are being taken advantage of and I fear the data being mined from us is worse than we have identified so far and is being used for more what they claim it is used for. Regrettably, I refuse to use Facebook anymore. What scares me? While I make every effort to remove my page from FB, it is still there, being used by FB in any way they choose.

  14. Faceless

    I agree with the idea that personal information needs to be regulated and protected like money in my bank account, and my health information through HIPPA regulation. I should be the only one who can give permission to share any information about me. The Mike Zukerbergs, Google, Amazon will say, you don't have to use our service if you don't want your information sold to the highest bidder. And basically they are right. It is their 'social networks' and as long as you know they are sharing your information, then if you use their service that is your choice.

    So the answer to make this change, is to STOP using Facebook and other social media services who don't protect your information meaning they can't sell it, give it away or use it for any purpose without your written permission, each and every time they want to use it. Make legislation requiring them to explain what information will be used, who it is going to, how it will be used by 3rd party -- full disclosure and transparency. No more, ' we are not responsible for what 3rd party does with your information or their privacy policy.' Add legislation that makes them responsible for who gets my information, ensuring the privacy of the party they are selling/giving it to is at least the same level of protection as their own stated privacy policy. Bottom line if they are responsible to protect my information no matter where it is used.

    If people want to stop this violation of privacy and profiteering off your personal information, you have to hit them where it hurts. Their pocket book. If people by the thousands closed out their Facebook accounts Mike Zukerberg would get the message. "We aren't giving you our personal information for your personal profit and money making machine!"

  15. bruloc

    The interrnet can be good for people and businesses for communications and commerce. Why has money gone into building all the memory for social networking pictures saved, and clicking friends, later to unfriend? That all that past memory is retained, and new memory is added to the service until all the lives of you, your family, friends, and etc are stored.l But for whose purposes? You, corporations, or government, for good or bad? Government licenses businesses, can give to or take away, is supposed to regulate and tax. Regulations and taxes are part of what no longer works and government is staffed by corporate boys, or those who can be bribed. Many regulations in effect do not regulate because they applied to old communications means, now obsolete. No applicable laws, and anything goes. From past, government had functions for security in place, and has determined that breaches have happened. Now, what to do when government is staffed from corporate interests, but majority of citizens are not on the money ends of communications; instead, are on the sales end of what is sold for what ever purpose, good or bad that is done with their data. Now is in the news media for mass disclosure, what will the citizens from the breached data, the sold end of the deal, what will they do next, to deal with what is happening. Keep old, obsolete laws, or update laws to meet the times and technology? What will you want, and what will you do? From individual to nation, what will we do next in our time to lessen damages, and prevent next generation of kids, be better protected? What will we collectively do to make the internet into a good thing, versus a bad thing. Can we at this stage? Dare we at this stage? What do you think can happen now disclosed to you? Now begins your part in what is to be done. Good luck!

  16. Jamshed

    Protection of personal data is the most important issue in my mind. It is very dangerous to carry out any financial transactions from the same devices without concern from malware or hackers getting into your system.

  17. Horatio Hornblower

    There will never be any internet connected devices (IoT) in our home. We connect to the internet on our computers and phones through a paid, high security VPN at all times.

    We will never use Siri or any other artificial intelligence that can access our cameras or microphones. We blind or disconnect our webcams when not in use. We will never own a "smart" tv.

    We have unique high security passwords with a multi platform password manager. And yet google has us by the shorts. We cannot avoid using google navigation on our phones and chromecast is how we watch catch up tv.

    We are nerdy creators of internet content with considerable security skills We are innocent of crime and misbehavior, but we are still fearful of the malfeasance of corporations and governments.