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2016: The Year in Privacy

Heather Parry

By Heather Parry

28 December 2016

2016 was a tough year for many reasons–and not just because we lost David Bowie just a few days into the first month.

In terms of online privacy, it seems as though 2016 has been a landmark year for all the wrong reasons. But how did the last 12 months really play out?

Let’s take a look.


China’s anti-terrorism law, forcing companies to give up encryption keys, came into effect, as did Germany’s controversial data retention law.


A federal judge requested that Apple help the FBI unlock an iPhone 5C that belonged to one of the men responsible for the December 2015 San Bernadino shootings. Apple declined, and the case went to court. 


The FBI dropped its law case against Apple, stating that a third party was able to unlock the iPhone 5C that had belonged to one of the San Bernadino shooters.


The US passed Rule 41, potentially granting new hacking powers to the government.


The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) criticized the planned Privacy Shield agreement between the US and the European Union as “not robust enough” and said it needed “significant improvements” if it was to protect the data of EU citizens. 


Ethiopa’s new cybercrime law made such things as dissenting online speech and pornography criminal offences.


Russia signed into effect new surveillance laws that dictated mandatory data retention by ISPs and encryption backdoors for the government.



Privacy Shield, the US-EU Framework designed to protect the data of EU users as their information is handled by US companies, came into effect.


Yahoo admitted that hackers stole data from 500 million user accounts back in 2014. 


The U.S. Federal Communications Commission brought in new rules forcing ISPs to obtain explicit consent from users before their data can be sold to third parties. 


Britain passed the Snooper’s Charter, putting into law the most far-reaching surveillance laws in any democratic nation.


Rule 41 came into effect in the US, allowing the FBI and other agencies permission to hack computers outside the jurisdiction in which the warrant was granted.

And for 2017?

We’ll look into that on our next blog. Stay tuned.

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