Between May and July this year, the names, social security numbers, and in some cases credit card numbers of over 140 million Americans (almost half of the American population) were stolen from the US credit firm Equifax. In May, a global cyber-attack locked up over 200,000 computers using a ransomware virus, demanding payment in the cryptocurrency Bitcoin in exchange for not erasing data. Notable among the victims was the NHS. September gave us the revelation that Deloitte, a major player in cybersecurity consultancy, had its email server hacked due to the lack of two-step verification.
A choice selection of stories from the last couple of years would include the details of 500 million Yahoo users stolen, 165 million accounts hacked at LinkedIn and similar numbers hacked at Adobe. The list of affected companies and organisations is long – Tesco Bank, the World Anti- Doping Agency, eBay, Target, JP Morgan, Sony, Home Depot, Anthem, Premera Blue Cross – and grows by the month.
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The tech sector always bets that product quality will override privacy concerns
Probably the most common criticism levelled at the tech sector is the one about privacy – the sense that the tech sector, or government enabled by the tech sector, are collecting far more data on individuals than they should, and that the data is then being sold or used for unclear purposes. While the tech sector sticks closely to its cherished, and well-proven, ideology that positive user experience nearly always mitigates these concerns in practice, it is also true that the concerns of pro-privacy groups within society, and government, are getting louder and more prominent.