There's no denying that 2016 has been quite the year both at home and abroad. From the outcomes of elections that no one ever expected, to the deaths of people we thought would live forever, for many 2016 was a never ending rollercoaster of one catastrophe to the next.
These feelings did not escape the cyber world, as the past year has pretty much sucked for anyone who cares about privacy and freedom online. As a global VPN company, at ZenMate we have experienced first hand how individuals all over the globe are being affected by surveillance, ignorance and interference in the online world.
Here's the 4 things that have affected our users most in the last year:
1. Government blocks
Over the last year we have witnessed many citizens' rights to access the web freely and independently be restricted by governments attempting to exert control over their population. The most notable example of this is perhaps Turkey, who's government blocked access to social media and messenger apps on multiple occasions throughout the year. This culminated in November when even VPNs were blocked temporarily to the people of Turkey as the government tried to control the spread of information between it's citizens.
Yet Turkey is not alone in this plight; 2016 also saw the Brazilian government block and unblock WhatsApp multiple times while the Russian government blocked access to PornHub and LinkedIn. Unfortunately government interference in our online freedom seems to be a significant global trend that we can only hope doesn't grow in 2017.
2. Increased surveillance
Three years (and one movie) since the Snowden leaks and government surveillance doesn't seem to be slowing down. In the UK, the Conservative government just passed the Orwellian 'Snooper's Charter' legislation that forces ISPs to keep a record of all customers' online behaviour for one year so that this information can be accessed by the authorities.
On the day the law passed, inventor of the World Wide Web and fellow Brit, Tim Berners-Lee, marked the occassion with a tweet: 'Dark, dark days.'
Sadly, we must agree.
3. Company data mishandling
Yet governments aren't the only people taking a flippant approach to our online civil liberties. Another alarming trend of 2016 was the careless handling of our personal data by private companies, both large and small. The biggest story in this regard came in August when WhatsApp announced that they were sharing their users' data (including chats and phone numbers) with parent company Facebook, all in the name of advertising.
As the technology is becoming more sophisticated it seems that online companies are getting more aggressive in the way they track and target us online. Great if you can't remember where you saw that perfect winter jacket but not so good if you don't want to be followed with every click you make online.
4. Hacks and cybercrime
And just to top it all off, 2016 also brought us the 'relentless growth of cybercrime.' This year Europol released a study that documented the growth of cybercrime within EU member states, detailing some alarming trends including the growth of organised crime groups and the abuse of children online. Plus they revealed that cybercrime has officially overtaken traditional crime in many countries, including the UK.
In fact it seems like not a week has gone past this year where we didn't hear about some fatal Android security flaw or company hack that puts our money and security at risk. Plus, the continued ignorance of those in power when it comes to encryption software isn't really helping matters, and may end up putting us more at risk of attack.
So 2016 may have sucked but all is not lost. The last year also brought us incredible advances in technology that could positively impact life on our earth forever. Want some positivity? Check out the MIT Technology Review of the year.
New Year is not a time to dwell on the past but a time to look forward. Let ZenMate protect you throughout 2017 and save 31% on our UK Yearly Package by clicking here.