Pew: Majority See No Secure Privacy Regime By 2025

Living Online Means Almost Ubiquitous Surveillance

A slight majority of tech experts polled by Pew say they don't expect that there will be a "secure, popularly accepted and trusted privacy-rights infrastructure by 2025" within the next 10 years.

That is according to the a survey conducted by Pew Research Center and Elon University's Imagining the Internet Center.

The breakdown was 55% saying no and 45% saying yes. The survey polled 2,511 "technology builders, researchers, managers, policymakers, marketers, analysts and those who have been insightful respondents in previous studies," and only those who opted in to an invitation to weigh in on the future of privacy.

“The vast majority of experts agree that people who operate online are living in an unprecedented condition of ubiquitous surveillance,” said Lee Rainie, a co-author of the report and director of the Pew Research Internet Project, in unveiling the survey.

The presumption is that personal data is now the "raw material" of the knowledge economy and that the challenge is to look at the future of privacy "in light of the technological change, ever-growing monetization of digital encounters, and shifting relationship of citizens and their governments that is likely to extend through the next decade."

The survey was issued amidst the backdrop of the hacking of Sony Pictures and the publication of personal information of its employees and the recent passage of cybersecurity legislation to come up with a government-private industry partnership on cybersecurity protection standards.

He said that whether they said yes or no to the question, most participants in the survey said that "living in public" is the new default mode.

Among the reasons the "no" group gave for believing a privacy rights infrastructure was not happening anytime soon were the difficulty in getting the world's varied culutures and views about privacy on the same page on civil liberties on a global Internet.

Clearly that divide has been seen in the divide at international telecommunications conferences over the issue of Internet governance.

Among those who said "yes," the reasons included that people will have more control over the information thanks to tools that will give them power to "negotiate with corporations and work around governments" through tiered levels of access that they control. They also said the backlash against the "most egregious" privacy invasions will create a new equilibrium and a more savvy citizen better able to hide info they want to keep hidden.

Another obstacle, they said, was the Internet of Things and the objects in people's homes or jobs that will be able to "tattle" on them.

Then there is the sheer volume of the task of coordinating economic and security protections that are getting bigger all the time.

"“Many said it is not possible to create an effective privacy rights system,” said Janna Anderson, director of Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center, of the study's findings. “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."

Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist, was among those who saw hope for privacy. "If capable people of good will—on both policy and tech sides—can connect, then this can happen," he said.

The report is the seventh and last in a series of Digital Life in 20205" surveys marking the 25th anniversary of the creation of the world wide web by Sir Tim Berners-Lee.

The survey was a canvass rather than a randomized sample of experts contacted for their views.