Take charge of data and privacy in the digital age

“Nobody, including me, wants to give up on all of the benefits of our information economy. … But nor should any of us simply give up all of our data without any assurances that it will not come back to bite us.”

Julia Angwin

—Julia Angwin, author of “Dragnet Nation: A Quest for Privacy, Security, and Freedom in a World of Relentless Surveillance”

Vision

We envision a world where consumers’ privacy is protected and consumers are empowered to navigate a digital world.

Today’s rapidly advancing technologies are no doubt making life easier for consumers, but they are also putting our security and privacy at risk in ways previously unimagined. That’s why Consumer Reports will be focusing our testing and policy efforts to not only ensure consumers are aware of the ways their data and privacy is vulnerable but also to equip them to make smart, informed decisions in this complex world.

Our cover story included dozens of tips to protect your privacy including how to check your data breach status, outwit your smart TV, and set up two-factor authentication (or 2FA) to prevent unauthorized access to your accounts.

Refrigerators, coffee makers, scales, thermostats, door locks, and even Barbie dolls have joined the ranks of “smart” products, such as cell phones, watches, and TVs, that are connected to the internet and gathering data from the most intimate corners of our lives. With that convenience comes hidden privacy threats, however, as these devices collect and send a steady flow of personal data to corporate servers, where it can be saved, shared, and sold in ways that consumers can’t control. Our latest investigation combats that sense of hopelessness we all feel by putting prominent security experts, software engineers, and advocates to work offering their best advice for how consumers can both empower and protect themselves from threats to their privacy and security.

Of course, many of those threats come from apps and other software—a new frontier for Consumer Reports as we focus our product testing and policy efforts on what lies within all of our devices. Our recent evaluation of a health app, for example, uncovered a major privacy risk, prompting a quick fix by the company but raising additional questions about the risks that come with connectivity.

Looking forward

The challenges related to navigating an increasingly complex era of software continue to grow, with consumers frequently trading away privacy for convenience, often without understanding the consequences. That’s why we’re aggressively developing new ways to test software and smart devices for privacy and security, while simultaneously advocating for greater consumer choice when it comes to how personal data is collected and used.

90%

of consumers find it “somewhat” or “very” intrusive that a data firm collects their web browsing history, without them knowing it, then leases the information to advertising companies. Source: 2016 Consumer Reports survey of 1,012 U.S. adults.

90%

of consumers find it “somewhat” or “very” intrusive that a data firm collects their web browsing history, without them knowing it, then leases the information to advertising companies.
Source: 2016 Consumer Reports survey of 1,012 U.S. adults.