“In 2023, the state of our digital privacy is: Very Creepy.” That’s the verdict from Mozilla’s first-ever “Annual Consumer Creep-o-Meter,” which attempts to set benchmarks for digital privacy and identify trends:
Since 2017, Mozilla has published 15 editions of *Privacy Not Included, our consumer tech buyers guide. We’ve reviewed over 500 gadgets, apps, cars, and more, assessing their security features, what data they collect, and who they share that data with. In 2023, we compared our most recent findings with those of the past five years. It quickly became clear that products and companies are collecting more personal data than ever before — and then using that information in shady ways…
Products are getting more secure, but also a lot less private. More companies are meeting Mozilla’s Minimum Security Standards like using encryption and providing automatic software updates. That’s good news. But at the same time, companies are collecting and sharing users’ personal data like never before. And that’s bad news. Many companies now view their hardware or software as a means to an end: collecting that coveted personal data for targeted advertising and training AI. For example: The mental health app BetterHelp shares your data with advertisers, social media platforms, and sister companies. The Japanese car manufacturer Nissan collects a wide range of information, including sexual activity, health diagnosis data, and genetic information — but doesn’t specify how.
An increasing number of products can’t be used offline. In the past, the privacy conscious could always buy a connected device but turn off connectivity, making it “dumb.” That’s no longer an option in many cases. The number of connected devices that require apps and can’t be used offline are increasing. This trend, coupled with the first, means it’s harder and harder to keep your data private.
In the end they advise opting out of data collection when possible, enabling security features, and “If you’re not comfortable with a product’s privacy, don’t buy it. And, speak up. Over the years, we’ve seen companies respond to consumer demand for privacy, like when Apple reformed app tracking and Zoom made end-to-end encryption a free feature.”
You can also take a quiz that calculates your own privacy footprint (based on whether you’re using consumer tech products like the Apple Watch, Nintendo Switch, Nook, or Telegram). Mozilla’s privacy advocates award the highest marks to privacy-protecting products like Signal, Sonos’ SL Speakers, and the Pocketbook eReader (an alternative to Amazon’s Kindle. (Although 100% of the cars reviewed by Mozilla “failed to meet our privacy and security standards.”)
The graphics on the site help make its point. As you move your mouse across the page, the cartoon eyes follow its movement…