TL;DR: With data breach risks and regulations on the rise, data access for developers will become increasingly restricted. Add to that the escalating complexity of mimicking production data in-house, and DevOps teams stand to face a sudden shortage of quality data for development and testing in the year ahead.

Perhaps the only thing riskier than making predictions for 2021, given the unprecedented year that was 2020, is not making predictions and responding to the trends when it comes to data privacy. Reflecting on what we’ve seen in the industry and in conversations with our customers, here are the developments we see unfolding in the year ahead.

2021 will be the worst year for data breaches yet.

The scale of data breaches will be worse in 2021 than ever before. How do we know? The past few years have been nothing but a steady upward climb. Even though the number of breaches decreased from 2019 to 2020, the number of records exposed in those breaches more than doubled, from 15.1 billion records in 2019 to 36 billion in 2020 as of Q3

Companies may be fighting the good fight in safeguarding against breaches, but when a breach occurs, they’re losing more data than ever. And with work-from-home now the norm for so many, the risks of a breach are heightened.

Remote work will redefine data governance—permanently.

With the above in mind, the shift to remote work is changing how people think about security for distributed teams, especially around data minimization and access restrictions. We’re seeing changes in internal processing and an increase in tooling to reduce the use of sensitive data within an organization. 

The real potential here is for ways that do so without limiting employees from getting work done. At Tonic, we're doubling down on this need as we believe these shifts are here to stay.

Using production data in development is OUT.

Thanks to privacy legislation like GDPR and CCPA/CPRA, the shift away from using production data in development and testing has been steadily picking up speed. But it’s not yet the gold standard that it should be. 

 Between the risks of remote work and ever stronger regulations on the horizon, we expect this shift to accelerate dramatically over the coming year. Some companies will opt to create dummy data in house; others will consider the work involved, and seek out solutions like Tonic, to rapidly get high-quality, representative data at scale.

Data access will make or break developer productivity.

Developer productivity sets apart successful organizations from unsuccessful ones, making rapid, easy access to high quality data more important than ever. As applications become more advanced, the data involved in their use and creation is becoming increasingly complex. 

Traditional dev tools simply aren't up to the challenge of meeting today’s data needs, and in-house solutions fail over time. Organizations that don’t find a faster, safer way to get their developers the data they need will be left behind. 

Privacy needs will impact cloud migrations.

Simply put, migrating from on-prem to cloud data lakes needs to be done with privacy in mind. Compliance with regulations can impact how a company's data can be stored in the cloud. Data sanitization pre-migration may be a necessary step in the process, and data access post-migration must be carefully defined. We’re seeing many companies combine the potential of cloud data warehousing like Snowflake with streamlined data de-identification like Tonic to get the best that modern privacy tools and cloud storage solutions have to offer.

Federal data privacy legislation is coming.

You’ve probably heard this elsewhere as well. We’re all in agreement: it’s high time the US set a federal standard for data privacy. In the past two years, as many as 27 states have taken matters into their own hands, introducing state-level privacy legislation. California, Maine, and Nevada have already signed their bills into law, complicating the landscape of compliance requirements companies must meet. Legislation at the federal level is in everyone’s best interest, from consumers to legislators to corporations.

So there you have it, the good, the bad, and the critical to keep in mind as we navigate another year in this unexpected landscape. We’re excited to see Tonic helping our customers address many of these concerns. If safe data access and developer enablement is top of mind for you in 2021 and our predictions strike a chord, drop us a line. Here’s to a safe and happy new year!