Online Privacy Hit All-Time Low in 2016 But Don't Expect Better in 2017, Company Says

David Carillet/

This year was “probably the worst year ever in online privacy," according to one company.

The new year could be an ugly year for internet privacy.

Drone-jacking, increased mobile ransomware, malware attacks against corporations and individuals, and expanding surveillance legislation under a new presidential administration are just a few of the 2017 predictions made by internet security company NordVPN.

Its predictions follow a massive hack on tech giant Yahoo affecting 1 billion users, a distributed denial-of-service attack that shut down access to parts of the U.S. internet, and numerous other privacy-compromising exploits that made 2016 “probably the worst year ever in online privacy.”

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“In general, there is no reason to believe that global privacy will fare any better in 2017 than it has in 2016, and therefore it is most likely both criminal element online and the mass data collection initiatives will pose data breach threats into the next year,” the company wrote in a Dec. 27 blog post.

The blog post suggests device makers will thrive in 2017 because of a continued demand for internet-connected devices. Users' privacy, however, is at risk because manufacturers' rush to market often makes the security of these devices an afterthought. Most smart devices can't be easily updated, which means any security gaps could loom for years. That increases the likelihood someone could access private data or use the devices to spread malware.

“Smart devices shipped out in 2017 may have backdoors and malware already installed, and this will be a huge privacy concern,” the blog post states.

The blog is not bullish on a privacy-conscious President-elect Donald Trump, nor does it express confidence that Congress will have privacy in mind when reconsidering whether to renew Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendments of 2008. The federal law, which allows intelligence agencies to spy on electronic communications of people who live outside the U.S., is set to expire in 2017.

The blog post also predicts a crackdown on communications apps like WhatsApp and social media platforms.

“This may be the greatest threat to privacy of them all," according to the post. "This is especially true for U.S. citizens who are either unsure or scared of President-elect Donald Trump’s stance on the Internet privacy. However, based on his recent controversial national security staff picks and support by pro-government surveillance individuals, it seems likely that U.S. online privacy will be threatened in 2017.”