What is the future of online privacy? Pew Research Center and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center released a new study Thursday seeking answers to that question from experts, many of which mentioned Facebook in their answers.
Pew Research Center and Imagining the Internet Center said that 55 percent of experts responded to the question, “Will policy makers and technology innovators create a secure, popularly accepted and trusted privacy-rights infrastructure by 2025?” with no, while 45 percent said yes.
Highlights of answers that mentioned Facebook follow:
There will be many contentious battles over the control of identity and private life. The appropriation of personal facts for commercial value — an issue that emerged with Google’s Shared Endorsements and Facebook’s Sponsored Stories — are a small glimpse of what lies ahead. The key will be the defaults: Either individuals will control their online persona or it will be controlled by others.
Internet sociologist and self-employed writer, consultant and educator Howard Rheingold:
Privacy is a social construct — for example, until central heating, most people in most houses slept in the same room; in Japan, for centuries, walls were made of paper. Ask any teenager about his or her “Facebook-stalking” habits. Privacy has already changed.
David Clark, senior research scientist, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory:
There will be a swing back from the total voluntary disclosure we see today on sites like Facebook. What we will see is a more nuanced way for people to deal with their different friends and colleagues, with more expressive ways to control what is shared. But, the pressures for big data tracking will continue to erode our expectations of what is known about us without our explicit disclosure.
Technology futures speaker, trend watcher and futurist Marcel Bullinga:
In 2025, we will have a post-Facebook and post-Google world. We will have new business models in which facilitating data is more lucrative than owning data. Providers who refrain from owning their customers’ data and stick to facilitating the owner in handling their data in a trusted way will win. This means Google and Facebook will lose. If we do not make this transition, we face a privacy and fraud nightmare in which our lives are dominated by a few global tech companies. There are two opposite trends: First, we will adapt to 100 percent transparency and the utter loss of privacy, accepting that secrets no longer exist. The societal impact of scandals (exposed secrets) will diminish because it is impossible to react with constant indignation when secrets are revealed all the time. Second, we will adapt to 100 percent privacy. Counter technologies will give us huge amounts of privacy protection, allowing us to pick our own desired level of privacy. Privacy will cost money and will be a paid service.
Writer, consultant, blogger and part-time professor Larry Press:
Security and privacy will evolve, but they will not come to a stable conclusion for several reasons: First, “right” and “wrong” are subjective — one person’s privacy for freedom fighters is another person’s terrorism. Second, people willingly trade privacy for free services like those provided by Google and Facebook; that also gives those companies power to influence legislation. Third, technology — whack-a-mole — will continue to evolve. My guess is that people will be less concerned about privacy by 2025 — I teach, and my students are pretty much indifferent.
Rutgers University Prof. Marc Weiner:
The Internet’s present-day commercial norms and physical infrastructure (assumes) a very elastic sense of privacy. Despite some early holdouts for a free and unregulated Internet, it was quickly monetized, and since the only things that actually move around on the Internet are data, it was data that was monetized. And in order to monetize data, it was necessary to render conventional understandings of privacy elastic; indeed, Facebook’s use of private data is the very best example of this phenomenon. This policy of elastic privacy is now so deeply embedded in the praxis of the Internet that path dependency pushes it to expand in like form.
Per Ola Kristensson, lecturer in human-computer interaction, University of St. Andrews:
By 2025, there will be intense pressure by the general public to legislate in order to protect people’s privacy on the Internet. However, legislation will not be completed by 2025, as legislators will still be waiting for an industry-driven, privacy-rights infrastructure to be developed. The development of this infrastructure will be delayed because of an inability to agree on several fundamental issues due to competing business interests, such as a fear of standardization damaging profits for leading advertisement networks, and an inability of privacy advocates and advertisement networks and other industries profiting from profiling people to compromise. Politically, there will be serious concerns raised about how the U.S. risks losing its dominant position in the Internet business by legislating too harshly, as leading advertising networks by Google, Facebook, LinkedIn and other U.S.-based IT (information technology) companies will be even more dominant and an even bigger industry than it is today. It is likely that educated people will be more reluctant to share information on the Internet, as the ability to de-anonymize people on the Internet will be much greater.
RE-UP executive creative strategist Laurent Francois:
In terms of business relationships, consumers will probably value a minimum standard of privacy. But again, as it is already a very complicated mind game (just look at what we already accept when we install a Facebook application!), I am not sure that the general public will shift its attitude if the consumer experience satisfies them. I guess that it is going to become tougher.
People will be accustomed to being monitored, and it will take increasing amounts of technical savvy and paranoia to remain untracked. I believe social mores will relax on the job-finding side, so your drunken Facebook pictures or trips to strip clubs will be less harmful from an employment perspective, although possibly still something to be held over someone’s head, if necessary. People will rebel if their personal spaces, such as their homes, are broadcast online, but they will ignore it if that same information is available with a warrant, or whatnot.
Social media educator Laural Papworth:
Policymakers will not have a role, but technology innovators now have an extremely strong customer sector that speaks back. Products that damage fidelity will be destroyed by mass word-of-mouth media before they get too far. Rights will be managed not because of any ethical behavior, but because not to will be bad for business. Consider Google Plus making privacy such a critical part of its social network to counterpoint Facebook’s perceived lack of privacy. Privacy was a short-lived, post-industrial experiment. The global village will always win against privacy. Privacy was used to divide and separate individuals from each other to weaken them. As we enter back into the village, privacy naturally disappears against convenience and the human need for connection.
CBS Interactive editor Dan Farber:
As we have seen with the NSA (National Security Agency) revelation, no data is safe from those who want to access it; however, that does not mean great efforts will not be made to provide more secure privacy. Certainly, Facebook, Google, Apple, Amazon, etc., will make every effort to make their customers believe they are trustworthy stewards of privacy.
Futurist, consultant and industry analyst Laurie Orlov:
The year 2025 is only a decade away, and even as outcry about privacy invasion gets louder, more technology is being introduced that is designed to help users easily share information (i.e., Instagram) or find each other (i.e., Tinder). People are gravitating toward the sign-in-and-share, Facebook-like style of online interactions. So as innovators deliver the tools, and as users embrace them, policymakers will continue to be way behind in both understanding tech trends — and/or part of the problem of using shared information (NSA, for example) in ways that are not anticipated. Public norms are headed towards greater acceptance of online sharing — and business innovators are racing to capitalize on that acceptance. Individuals will continue to lack understanding about the implications of participation in online environments — even as they gain understanding about one environment, technology change is always ahead of them. The longer a user agreement for use of data provided, the less likely these are to be read. See smartphone location-based apps for many examples.
Technology developer and administrator Christopher Castaneda:
In recent years, public pushback against Facebook has shown some distaste for the company’s behavior. In addition, the use of mobile devices, and the data they will produce, will cause some public concern over their devices, as mobile devices are more personal than a desktop or laptop computer.
Thought leader and consultancy principal Rex Miller:
The idea of nation-states will undergo major redefinition. The idea is now obsolete. They have been transcended by global commerce and global platforms like Google, Facebook, etc. These will provide secured enclaves as a value-added service. Policymakers move too slow in the current structure and cannot coordinate between different governance structures to be effective. There will be no privacy to speak of. We will have given away all of it, and there will rise groups who protect the different interests of vulnerable groups.
Media Psychology Research Center director Pamela Rutledge:
Public perception is understandably narrow; most see privacy as being about Facebook settings or identity theft. We have unleashed a powerful tool on society without bothering to teach people how to use it.
An unnamed principal engineer with Ericsson:
The danger comes when people move from attempting to modify behavior for commercial reasons to trying to modify behavior for political ones, by examining what makes people think a certain way or prompts them to take action or causes them to believe certain things en masse. In fact, it can be argued that we are already seeing this sort of thing take place, with large data analytics firms, such as Google and Facebook, getting deeply involved in politics.
Pew Research Internet Project director Lee Rainie said in a release introducing the study:
The vast majority of experts agree that people who operate online are living in an unprecedented condition of ubiquitous surveillance. Most of the participants in this study, whether they answered yes or no about the possibility of creating a trusted privacy infrastructure, said that living in public is the new default mode. People online share details about themselves in order to enrich friendships, find or grow communities and act as economic agents, and personal data are the raw material of the knowledge economy. The opinions shared in this study reveal experts’ opinions on the future of privacy in light of likely technological change, the ever-growing monetization of digital encounters and the shifting relationship of citizens and their governments.
Janna Anderson, director of Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center, added:
Many said it is not possible to create an effective privacy rights system. They said governments and industry have very little incentive to reverse the already quite-invasive status quo, while they have much to gain from ongoing losses of civil rights in regard to individual privacy and data ownership. Some wrote that the “genie is already out of the bottle” and said people will continue to accept subversion of privacy as an inevitable fact of life, as an expected tradeoff for something of value. One wrote, “Privacy will be a premium luxury commodity.”
Readers: What are your thoughts on what Internet privacy will look like in 2025?
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