The state of digital privacy

How data is collected, monetized and lost by big data miners

Every time you upload a photo on Facebook or use an app on your smartphone, you are trading a small convenience for what can amount to a large loss of privacy and potential identity theft.

You may not read those lengthy terms of service -- and 19% percent free apps don't even bother with them -- but they dictate what corporations can do with your information and what happens when those services are cracked into. Other risks you face while enjoying an app for that include phishing attacks, spam and identity theft to more serious like exposure of medical conditions and even jail.

FreedomBox Foundation has charted the current state of privacy, or lack thereof, in today's digital-driven world.

Our data, culled from authoritative sources, shows that security breaches are multiplying as more people rely on apps and social networks. At the same time, advertising revenues generated from your data are also increasing exponentially -- so the same corporations who are selling your information to make money are less able to protect you from being exploited.

Breaches like the one that downed Sony Corp. in April will only become more common: the Playstation Network compromised an estimated over 100 million accounts containing unencrypted personal information such as names, addresses, birth dates, login credentials in addition to potentially tens of thousands or even millions of credit card numbers. A breach of security in South Korean most popular social network led to the loss of private information for 35 million people, almost 70% of the total Korean population.

A staggering 600 million records have been breached due to the roughly 2,460 data breaches made public since 2005.

Frankly, we think that's too much information for the pleasure to be had for a few hours of entertainment.

It doesn't stop there. Last December, the Wall Street Journal investigated the behavior of the 101 most popular mobile apps, finding that more than half transmitted the user’s unique device ID to third parties without the user’s consent. Forty-seven apps transmitted the phone’s location. One popular music app, Pandora, sent users’ age, gender, location and phone identifier to various ad networks.

The complete data set is attached as an infographic. Please feel free to use our infographic crediting FreedomBox Foundation, as specified by its Creative Commons BY-SA license.


Mark Hachman, Most Mobile Apps Lack Privacy Policies: Study, PC MAGAZINE, April 27, 2011

Scott Thurm and Yukari Iwatani Kane, Your Apps are Watching You, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, December 17, 2010