It has been proven that innovation and privacy don’t always go hand in hand. Of course, the benefits are always more attractive than disadvantages. Technological innovations give people access to the latest technologies but we do object when we realize that by using this technology, more (personal) data is exposed as well.
Because the World Wide Web celebrates its 25th anniversary this year and online privacy is a hot item at the moment, the PEW Research Center decided to have a survey conducted by experts in this field. The topic of the survey was online privacy in 2025 and the question was: ‘By the year 2025, will policy makers and technology companies have jointly developed a socially accepted secure infrastructure around online privacy?’ The outcome of the survey was downright shattering. According to the experts, innovations that will be happening in the future will make matters around (online) privacy in 2025 even worse.
These are some of the experts’ comments:
Danah Boyd - Research Scientist - Microsoft:
I expect that matters of privacy and security in terms of personal data will be worse in 2025 than they are now. People will, however, be more aware of how their personal data is used by third parties. Though there will be more awareness, in 2025 the individual has little or no power over his personal data.
Hal Varian - Chief Economist - Google:
In 2025, the current discussion around privacy will seem old-fashioned. The benefits of new technology will heavily outweigh the disadvantages. Of course there will be a group that will not use these new technologies for privacy reasons, but that group will be small. In 2025, everybody will expect to be monitored everywhere and in any kind of way.
Stowe Boyd - GigaOM Research:
In order to exist online, you have to publish things to be shared. This has to be done in open, public spaces. In these public and accessible environments, big companies also search for usable data. This data is then used, without permission, for purposes such as product development. When people don’t share their stories and information online, chances are very small that friendships are formed, communities grow and new knowledge is acquired.
Privacy is also a frequent topic of discussion during the many lectures I give. In the next 5 years, we will collectively generate four times as much data through sensors in our wearables, in the streets, in the air, in our bodies or in our jars of peanut butter. Our mobile, social and web data will also expand. If we are currently unable to adequately protect this data, we can expect 2025 to become a major challenge.
We will have small programs (‘digital guardians’) that help us to protect our personal data from abuse. I do hope, however, that these programs won’t be provided by Google as this is a task for governments to finally start taking this topic seriously. How exactly? That I'll gladly explain to you during one of my inspiration sessions.
What are your thoughts on this subject? Are you afraid that you no longer have power over your own privacy?