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Five things to look for in the 2019 tech industry

Adriene Hill and Molly Wood Dec 26, 2018
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It’s been a long year for the tech industry, with data breaches, privacy scandals and new regulations in Europe and California. So what’s in store for 2019? Marketplace Tech’s Molly Wood told host Adriene Hill that stakes are getting raised for trust, data and devices in the new year. Here are five things Wood is looking for:

1. More big data breaches

Marriott, Facebook, Google, Saks, Orbitz … all had major hacks of consumer data in 2018. While we hope companies will do a better job guarding our consumer data in 2019, don’t expect the headlines about massive data breaches to stop. Many companies simply don’t have the infrastructure in place to get better in the short term, though.

2. More tech regulation

But more pressure is already coming from U.S. lawmakers for companies to step up their game around protecting consumer data. The General Data Protection Rule became law in the European Union this year, and under that companies can get fined up to 4 percent of their annual revenue for violations. California passed broad privacy rules that are similar to the GDPR, and other states are moving in that direction. And so now there is talk of federal privacy regulation, which tech companies are actually pushing to have because it would let them avoid a state-by-state patchwork, and it’s more likely to be voluntary. (Let’s give it about a fifty-fifty chance of being introduced in 2019.)

3. Consumers demand better

Ultimately the only thing that’s going to force real change in the short term is consumer behavior — consumers demanding more answer and more security from online companies. I think you’re finally seeing consumers start to question what information they’re providing when they fill out forms online, or join a new platform, or download a new app, or click “agree” on those online terms of service. It’s consumers asking, “Do you really need to know all this?” A Pew report earlier this year that said some 70 percent of consumers had taken some action to secure their online data. So there’s a growing realization that the business model of the internet is advertising, and that advertising depends on your data. Expect to hear more of a term we learned this year on Marketplace Tech: “techlash.”

4. The internet of things

Of course, these realizations about the value of our data are coming just as there’s an explosion of making every single thing you own and use wifi-enabled and voice activated — the “internet of things” we hear so much about. This is the year I think we find out how much people trust — among other companies — Amazon, because Alexa is certainly leading the charge into people’s homes as they’re using it to connect their lights, and their refrigerator, and their TV, and their thermostat, and their door locks. The stakes are getting raised for trust, data and devices in 2019.

5. Different internets

In 2019, expect to hear more about tech and globalization. What we’re starting to see now is that Europe wants its own version of the internet, and China wants another version, and the U.S. yet another version — and Google might be willing to accommodate them. There’s a path toward multiple internets that are culturally appropriate for where they’re located. As that happens, it starts to be a lot harder to do business globally if you’re Facebook or you’re Google because you have to invest in crafting multiple products. And it also means that a major promise of the internet is not fulfilled. There will be places where certain material is censored. I think in some ways the importance of this one can’t be overstated, because the internet is so important to the way we live and communicate.

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