Will our privacy problems be solved by 2025? Responses released in Pew study

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As more innovators and tech gurus crawl into the ever-growing technology and internet market, the concern between users and their privacy online become more and more dominant. According to a Pew Research Center study, policymakers and tech innovators will have a hard time to respond.

Experts responded to a survey with split opinions on the matter that politicians and tech innovators can create “secure, popularly accepted, and trusted privacy-rights infrastructure by 2025 that allows for business innovation and monetization,” while offering people accessible options for protecting their personal info.

Looking at the results of the survey, about 55% of the 2,511 people surveyed said they believed a accepted privacy-rights infrastructure would exist in the next decade. The other 45% said it would, however. Regardless to the surveyed thoughts on the future of online privacy, many had agreed that online life is public nature.

Almost everybody agrees this new environment is coming,” said Lee Rainie, co-author of the study. “About half say we will make accommodations and about half say it’s an inexorable blob that will swallow people’s lives…and leave people in an environment where they have little control over their privacy.”

Pew’s survey uncovered common threads among responses; many experts agreed that security and privacy are “foundational issues of the digital world” and that people don’t require much more than the draw of convenience to share their personal information.

“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,” Bob Briscoe, chief researcher in networking and infrastructure for British Telecom, wrote in his response.

We are living in an unprecedented age of surveillance, said John Wilbanks, chief commons officer for the biomedical research company Sage Bionetworks.

I do not think 10 years is long enough for policymakers to change the way they make policy to keep up with the rate of technological progress. We have never had ubiquitous surveillance before, much less a form of ubiquitous surveillance that emerges primarily from voluntary (if market-obscured) choices,” he said.

What does this mean for the media, which often relies on targeted ads mined from readers’ personal data? The widespread use of personalized ads is a fait accompli, Rainie said. They aren’t going anywhere.

People don’t freak out now when they see ads that they see on other sites, or ads related to things they search for,” he said. “What experts would say is it’s a settled issue, not a top-of-mind problem.”

The tricky part is figuring out “the Internet of things,” Rainie added, and adapting to future changes in the display and rendering of information.

And social and cultural norms are ever-changing, said Homero Gil de Zuniga, director of the Digital Media Research Program at the University of Texas-Austin. That includes perceptions of privacy.
“By 2025, many of the issues, behaviors, and information we consider to be private today will not be so,” he told Pew. “Information will be even more pervasive, even more liquid, and portable. The digital private sphere, as well as the digital public sphere, will most likely completely overlap.

What do you think of the idea of still not having an accepted, private-rights infrastructure by the next decade? Leave a comment below with your thoughts.


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