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2018: A Big Year for Privacy

By Carl Landwher

Communications of the ACM, Vol. 62 No. 2, Pages 20-22
10.1145/3300224

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The year 2018 may in the future be seen as a turning point for privacy incidents and associated privacy-policy concerns. In March, the Cambridge Analytica/Facebook incident opened many eyes to the unanticipated places personal data reaches, and it continues to generate repercussions.4 Google shut down its struggling Google Plus social networking system in October, after announcing it had exposed the data of approximately 500,000 users,15 only 1% as many as involved in the Cambridge Analytica case. Facebook revealed another data breach in October, this one affecting a reported 29 million users.14

The open GEDmatch genomics database, developed for genealogy research, was used by police and genetics experts to identify alleged murderers in two "cold cases" and several other crimes.8 The site's founders, at first uncomfortable with its use by law enforcement, seem to now be more comfortable with it. Researchers subsequently estimated that today approximately 60% of Americans of European descent could be identified from their DNA, even if they had never registered their DNA with any site.6 Further, they forecast the figure will rise to 90% in only two or three years.9

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