Southeast Asia’s Internet usage growth is on a steep upswing. In 2017, the region became the third largest for internet users across the globe. And with more Internet users on the rise, tech organisations are seeing the region as the next big growth epicenter.

But, as is the case across all global regions, an increase in mobile dependency and Internet usage also brings about the question of security. In the fall of 2017, a Malaysian data breach jeopardised over 46 million personal details, and sparked new conversation and worries over digital security in the region.

Regardless of geographical location, security is an increasing point of tension for mobile and online users across the globe. From massive corporate breaches to the distribution of personal data from social media giants, consumers are growing steadily paranoid that their personal information and communications are not as secure as they have been led to believe. 

How does the public feel about online privacy? 

In a survey conducted in 2016, PEW found that almost half of all Americans do not trust the government or social media platforms to protect their data. Additionally, 61% of surveyed users also indicated that they would like to do more to protect their online data. As the numbers collected for this survey are now two years old, and pre-Cambridge Analytica, there is a chance that if asked today, these percentages would indicate even greater mistrust of how the government, brands, and social media platforms handle personal data.

The debate regarding online privacy is fierce and growing. A 2018 Vox article pinned data rights as civic rights and noted how the application of a framework similar to Europe’s GDPR could offer more transparency and control to individual users.  It remains to be seen whether a framework replicating the European Union’s digital privacy solution is viable in other parts of the globe. However, the onset of the GDPR, as well as the Cambridge Analytica breach have launched a conversation on digital data rights and privacy that governments simply cannot ignore.

While no one can adequately offer an estimated timeline or prediction of if and how governments around the world will work to bring forth solutions that protect citizens’ online data rights, there are tools and resources available now to help individuals employ greater agency in regards to their digital identities. 

How privacy-focussed applications are stepping up

There is a growing market dedicated to helping global citizens protect their digital communications and identities. From WeChat to Telegram, privacy is touted as the highest concern among the fast-growing messaging applications. In fact, the mobile encryption market is expected to reach a value of $2.9 billion by 2022. While the applications sparking this growth do excel at protecting users with end-to-end communication, their technology also requires users to facilitate all messaging through their platforms — which is not always feasible.

One emerging security solution, however, is designed to seamlessly implement extra security layers across the digital platforms and touchpoints global consumers already use, like Google Drive, Dropbox, SMS, and Gmail. Siccura is a software solution designed to help individuals take back control of their online privacy. Powered by blockchain’s decentralised protocol, Siccura allows individuals to enact secure, encrypted conversations across online properties and platforms. Siccura’s platform makes it possible for individuals to control, not just what they send, but how the content of their messages are received.

Through 360 degree features that range across email, IM, SMS, and videos, the platform grants complete control to content owners. For example, a sender can stop recipients from taking screenshots, forwarding content, or even copying and pasting messages. Furthermore, the application also allows for the retraction of messages. While the platform is currently focussed on personal communications, the team has plans to expand its technology and facilitate the privacy needs of full-scale teams and professional organisations.

With a public demanding more transparency, organisations of all sizes and across all industries are pledging to do more to protect consumer data. But the debate — or battle, for that matter — for online rights is far from over. In early June 2018, just a few months after Mark Zuckerberg testified in front of Congress, new information has emerged revealing Facebook’s deal with phone manufacturers.

It is possible that we have not yet seen the last instance in which consumer data distribution is revealed. While members of the public cannot necessarily dictate new laws — save for voting for candidates who champion online privacy laws — they do have the tools necessary to try to take back as much personal data power as possible.

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