Privacy will not exist in 10 years, Pew survey of tech experts says

By End the Lie
[Dec 21, 2014]

(Image credit: Yuri Samoilov/Flickr)

(Image credit: Yuri Samoilov/Flickr)

A Pew Research Center survey of over 2,500 technology industry professionals and experts found that over half believe there will not be a “secure, popularly accepted and trusted privacy-rights infrastructure” in place in 10 years.

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The “Future of Privacy” survey found that 55 percent of the 2,511 experts polled do not agree that there will be a system in place allowing people to decide how their information will be shared while also letting companies make money, according to Top Tech News.

This comes as some have claimed that privacy is dead and has been for quite a while. Others are claiming that the public should just accept the lack of privacy as the new norm.

One executive at a top-level domain name operator, who spoke anonymously, reflected that perspective.

“Big data equals big business,” the anonymous executive said to Pew. “Those special interests will continue to block any effective public policy work to ensure security, liberty and privacy online.”

While that may be the case for the United States, some European countries are taking a stand for online privacy and the rights of consumers to control how their personal information is used.

The Netherlands, for instance, recently threatened Google with massive fines if the tech giant does not change their privacy policy to comply with their consumer protection laws.

Another expert said that the very concept of privacy will evolve so much over the next decade that it will be all but unrecognizable compared to the meaning it has today.

“Society’s definitions of ‘privacy’ and ‘freedom’ will have changed so much by 2025 that today’s meanings will no longer apply,” Nick Arnett, a business intelligence expert, said.

The notion of ubiquitous surveillance also came up in the Pew research. Today’s technology has allowed for mass surveillance that was previously unimaginable and experts say this problem will only get worse.

“I do not think 10 years is long enough for policy makers to change the way they make policy to keep up with the rate of technological progress,” said John Wilbanks, chief commons officer for Sage Bionetworks. “We have never had ubiquitous surveillance before, much less a form of ubiquitous surveillance that emerges primarily from voluntary (if market-obscured) choices. Predicting how it shakes out is just fantasy.”

One of the biggest drivers behind the erosion of privacy appears to be the fact that many consumers simply don’t care, according to Bob Briscoe, chief researcher in networking and infrasctructure for British Telecom.

“Lack of concern about privacy stems from complacency because most people’s life experiences teach them that revealing their private information allows commercial (and public) organisations to make their lives easier (by targeting their needs), whereas the detrimental cases tend to be very serious but relatively rare,” Briscoe argued.

An anonymous information science professional agreed.

“Individuals are willing to give up privacy for the reasons of ease, fastness, and convenience,” the anonymous professional said. “If anything, consumer tracking will increase, and almost all data entered online will be considered ‘fair game’ for purposes of analytics and producing ‘user-driven’ ads.”

Whatever the reason, it is hardly arguable at this point that privacy is decreasing in an increasingly connected world.

It remains to be seen if people will actually begin to care about this erosion of privacy or if these experts are right and the future is more bleak than we can even imagine.


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