Will a strong system for protecting the privacy rights of computer and device users be in place 10 years from now? A sampling of technology experts says probably not. In a new survey by the Pew Research Center, more than half the 2,511 people polled said there will not be a “secure, popularly accepted, and trusted privacy-rights infrastructure” established by 2025.
According to "The Future of Privacy" survey, 55 percent of those polled disagreed that the coming decade would lead to some type of system allowing companies to innovate and make money while also letting people choose how they want their information to be shared.
An anonymous executive at an Internet top-level domain name operator said, “Big data equals big business. Those special interests will continue to block any effective public policy work to ensure security, liberty, and privacy online.”
The survey reflects increasing concern about how Web users’ information is being used by the sites they visit. At least one respondent predicted that current ideas regarding people’s information will change dramatically over the next decade.
"Society’s definitions of ‘privacy’ and ‘freedom’ will have changed so much by 2025 that today’s meanings will no longer apply," said respondent Nick Arnett, a business intelligence expert.
We Want Access
One reason for the pessimism among respondents boils down to human nature: The only inducement most people require to give up their personal information is convenience.
"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) organizations to make their lives easier (by targeting their needs), whereas the detrimental cases tend to be very serious but relatively rare," said Bob Briscoe, chief researcher in networking and infrastructure for British Telecom.
We reached out to Rick Holland, principal analyst, Security & Risk Management at Forrester Research Inc., who agreed with those sentiments.
"I fall into the 'there is no privacy' camp," said Holland. "People have already given up privacy for ease of use and access -- Gmail, Facebook, Instagram and so on. I'm a security guy and I give up privacy for the ease of use for some of these types of applications."
Will We Want Privacy?
In the survey, Pew asked the respondents three questions. The first question: "Will policy makers and technology innovators create a secure, popularly accepted, and trusted privacy-rights infrastructure by 2025 that allows for business innovation and monetization while also offering individuals choices for protecting their personal information in easy-to-use formats?
The second question: "Describe what you think the reality will be in 2025 when it comes to the overall public perception about whether policy makers and corporations have struck the right balance between personal privacy, secure data, and compelling content and apps that emerge from consumer tracking and analytics."
Pew's final question to the tech experts: "Consider the future of privacy in a broader social context. How will public norms about privacy be different in 2025 from the way they are now?"
One hope for increased privacy will be if consumers demand it, said Holland.
"I do see the potential of these high-profile, mainstream data breaches making the layman think more about privacy than they have in the past," he says. "The more Target, Home Depot, Sony Pictures-type of breaches occur, the more individuals will think about privacy. The loss of medical records could really force people to want to reclaim their privacy."
Posted: 2014-12-19 @ 1:14am PT
Security breaches are not the issue, even though this is what consumers focus about. The real issue is the perfectly legal erosion of privacy, enshrined in the Terms of Service. What consumers fail to see is that they get convenience and they pay for convenience, the same way that milk is more expensive at the convenience store than at the supermarket. Let them waste their money. I rather pay a visible fee for an email service that does not snoop on me than an invisible premium for a conveniently "free" gmail (not singling out Google, others are doing the same).
Posted: 2014-12-18 @ 4:25pm PT
@Steve in Ca: I don't think most of the companies are intentionally disclosing customer data. They probably even think they're doing a decent job of locking down the records. The problem is that hackers are becoming more sophisticated all the time.
Steve in Ca:
Posted: 2014-12-18 @ 4:23pm PT
Businesses that disclose customer's data should pay fines of $1-10 per person. The fines will drive the companies out of business unless they lock down the records.