Consumers are waking up to the dangers of hacks and data privacy. This year alone provided an onslaught of attacks affecting billions of Americans. CNN's 2016 report of data breaches included the Department of Homeland Security, the IRS, Myspace, LinkedIn and a host of cloud storage companies. Personal information is in high demand among data thieves, who sell the stolen and hacked material in a complex black market for technology. On top of that, companies are taking advantage of every opportunity to exploit consumers' personal data for commercial purposes.

Until recently, only tech savvy individuals could shield themselves from the dangers of the internet. Data protection, though a concern to the consumer, was an issue completely out of their control. That is all changing with new technology.

Consumers can take data privacy more seriously by leveraging emerging technologies.

Private Clouds

One of the concerns with using storage clouds is corporate data profiteering. Forgetting for a moment the risk of hacks that large cloud providers are vulnerable to, the providers themselves can utilize the data that consumers host on their cloud accounts to target them with ads and promotions. Beyond that, consumers are increasingly uneasy with allowing corporations to have access to their data whether they use it for profit or not.

Private cloud technology has taken the market by storm, providing a way to collect information in a central location and access it remotely. The technology, which has seen huge improvements in usability and consumer-friendly functionality in recent years, is starting to be used by small businesses and individuals.

"Consumers have become increasingly wary of corporations accessing their personal data," explains Séverin Marcombes, CEO of Lima Technology, a private cloud developer. "Private clouds are growing in popularity as a result. This technology has existed for a long time, but advances in usability have finally made it available to average consumers who are not tech-savvy."

The technology is expected to continue improving to meet the need for greater security as more business and daily life is conducted online. Lima's most recent offering has been recognized for pioneering ease of use. Consumers plug it in and it sets itself up without requiring the user to reconstruct their at home internet.

Blocking Data Trackers

Many users do not even realize the cyber fingerprints they leave behind. Online registration pages, clickable advertisements and social media are just some of the ways consumer information is disseminated into the web where it can be taken advantage of by corporations and criminals alike. Information like names, birth dates, social security or credit card numbers, and even medical records are at risk.

In order to prevent this, data-tracker blocking technology has been developed and introduced to conscious clients. Blockers aim to keep servers from gleaning information without permission of the user.

Disconnect is a prime example of this kind of technological growth. "Thousands of companies, cyber criminals, and governments invisibly track your online activity in ways you wouldn't expect," the company says. Disconnect specializes in disguising users through encryption codes while they surf public networks, guarding against hackers and data trackers.

The trend is a logical progression following the increased concern over hacking and tracking. Blocking is the next step in building a secure web experience.

Anonymous Web Browsers

An act as small as opening a web page or clicking an advertisement is saved in the cookies of our computers. So much of our daily lives are recorded unknowingly as we carry out our business online, from shopping to reading the news to sharing pictures with friends and family.

An entire black market exists to buy and sell that data regarding consumer tendencies and their personal information. Only recently have we become aware of how extensive and complex data theft actually is, and how little it takes to be at risk.

To restore privacy to the lives of consumers, companies like WhiteHat Security have launched projects to allow for anonymous web browsing. WhiteHat's project, Aviator, has taken a multifaceted approach to internet security, creating research and diagnostic teams to create the safest possible internet experience for clients.

"There is a very real need for consumers to be able to protect themselves in the digital world," explains Marcombes. "At the end of the day, the best solution is not to trust anyone but yourself with your own information. Personal Clouds enable you to do just this: access your files from anywhere, hosting them in your home rather than in company-controlled servers."

Although data tracking is meant to increase the convenience of the consumer and the efficiency of the advertiser, it would be irresponsible of a society to throw away their privacy so thoughtlessly or so endanger their security. If technology is behind the newest attacks on that privacy, it only makes sense to send technology to the front lines in the fight to defend it.

Published on: Feb 1, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.