Foreword

We are acutely aware of how the Internet impacts and transforms the world. It has the ability accelerate human progress, bridge the digital divide and build societies that drive innovation, entrepreneurship, and progress.

Today we are at a defining moment in the evolution and growth of the Internet.

Large-scale data breaches, uncertainties about the use of our data, cybercrime, surveillance and other online threats are eroding users’ trust and affecting how they use the Internet. Eroding trust is also affecting the way governments view the Internet, and, is shaping the policy environment for the Internet around the world..

We face a situation where we risk undoing all of the progress we have made over the past three decades.

It is time to act.

In the 2016 Global Internet Report, we take a close look at data breaches, offer approaches to help prevent them, and how these measures will positively impact user trust and the global digital economy.

We approach the issue through an economic lens, and ask the hard question: Why are organisations not taking all available steps to protect those who entrust them with their personal information? We also explore market failures and their impact on organisations’ data security.

We provide five clear recommendations for a path forward to address the increasing incidence and impact of data breaches.

We highlight that ‘your breach is my breach’ and that security is only as good as the weakest link. Whether a contractor, a client or someone else, one organisation’s poor security could open the door for data breaches in other organisations. On the Internet, everyone is connected. Far too often, information stolen from one organisation is later used to breach another organisation’s security. Thus, we have a collective responsibility to secure the data ecosystem, to protect not only ourselves but also the global Internet that we all depend on.

Through it all, we land on an overriding approach. One that puts Internet users at the heart of the solutions.

If there is a message that needs to be conveyed, it’s that a trusted Internet is not achieved by a single treaty or piece of legislation; it is not solved by a single technical fix, nor can it come about because one company, government or individual decides security is important.

By providing an in-depth analysis and recommendations on how to better prevent and mitigate data breaches, this report offers some concrete steps that will contribute rebuilding trust online.

The promise of the digital economy – one that will bring innovation, growth and social prosperity – will not be met without an open, trusted Internet.

The responsibility lies with all of us and it’s one we can take on together.

Kathy Brown
President and CEO
Internet Society