An illustration of laptops with various icons on the screens.
Illustration: Harry Campbell

As our lives have migrated more and more online since the onset of COVID-19, we have had to further wrestle with the concept of privacy and how it affects us every day. That means more than just the occasional worry that your child’s teacher or an office colleague will catch a glimpse of the breakfast dishes on the countertop behind you when you appear on camera.

The bigger worry for all of us is learning that the online platforms we now use for work, school, and social get-togethers might not be keeping our communications or our data private. It’s far past time for privacy to be an ironclad right and not simply an optional setting on our devices.

As Zoom ballooned from 10 million daily meeting participants in the months before the pandemic to more than 300 million in April, CR experts investigated, discovering a number of platform accountability and privacy concerns. To its credit, the company rectified most of the issues we unearthed. But its cooperation didn’t change the fact that hundreds of millions of people had just jumped into a boat without checking to see whether it was seaworthy.

At CR, we want to ensure that you are making active choices about your data and your devices—and that companies that make smart products and platforms are designing them with your security and well-being in mind. We’ve helped win safeguards, such as the trailblazing California Consumer Privacy Act, to help provide you with stronger protections. And we will keep working hard to ensure that our nation’s laws and policies build greater trust and accountability into the marketplace.

We have teed up some practical digital security tips that will allow you to protect your privacy. I hope you visit CR’s new and free Security Planner, which will help you create an easy and personalized way to ensure that your online privacy, across devices and platforms, is yours alone to manage.

Editor’s Note: This article also appeared in the February 2021 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.