2018 was a tumultuous year for privacy: The GDPR went into effect, California passed its Consumer Privacy Act, Equifax revealed the largest consumer data breach to date, and Facebook disclosed separate incidents of data misuse and a massive data breach.

Amidst this whirlwind, consumers aren’t waiting on the sidelines — Forrester data shows that 79% of US online adults use at least one tool to protect their digital privacy and security. With no slowdown of privacy violations on the horizon, we expect 2019 to be the year of the privacy-minded consumer. In our just-published 2019 privacy predictions, we expect consumers and lawmakers to make an impact as:

  • Individuals actively protect their privacy and call out bad actors. The seemingly nonstop stream of breach notifications and revelations that data giants collect more data than they let on has made consumers savvier about protecting themselves online. We predict a spike in privacy tool adoption and use of opt-out settings and data subject rights that will make “hyperpersonalization” a practical and ethical challenge. We also expect consumers to become privacy enforcers — alerting regulators of malfeasance, filing class-action lawsuits, and boycotting companies that fail to protect their privacy.
  • In the US, states — not Congress — maintain privacy regulation momentum. California is bringing GDPR lite across the pond with its Consumer Privacy Act, and Vermont recently passed a law requiring data brokers to register with the state and disclose their data practices and any breaches. These laws passed with overwhelming citizen support and focus on enforcing the ethical use of personal information. With Congress tied up in partisan turmoil, more states will take on consumer privacy rights at the behest of their constituents before a comprehensive federal law can be enacted.
  • Social credit scoring goes from nightmare to transparency marketing opportunity. China’s social credit scoring is something of a dystopian nightmare, but we think there’s a positive opportunity here for some high-profile lifestyle brands. We predict that a brand such as Everlane or goop will test a method of social credit scoring as an extension of its influence marketing program. Customers will be happy to participate if the program is rooted in transparency and consent and delivers meaningful value for engaging in the system.

For too long, organizations have wrongly assumed that consumers are ambivalent about their privacy. Now, as Facebook’s repeated privacy breaches have shown, user trust is neither infinite nor unwavering. In the coming year of privacy-minded consumer action, companies must consider how to appease not just regulators but also their customers.

2019 is the year that transformation goes pragmatic. To understand the 14 major dynamics that will impact firms next year, download Forrester’s Predictions 2019 guide

Thank you to the Forrester analysts and researchers who contributed to this report: Stephanie Balaouras, Enza Iannopollo, Laura Koetzle, Stephanie Liu, Jeff Pollard, Heidi Shey, and Elsa Pikulik.