The Strategist

Our Digital Future: George Orwell May Have Been Optimistic

05/18/2015 - 16:31

Pew Research Center research firm’s survey shows that Internet blurs the line between private and public information. According to interviewed experts, by 2025, the boundary between these areas may completely disappear.

Yuri Samoilov
Yuri Samoilov
Privacy has always been a flexible concept, but thanks to the Internet the line between private and public is becoming thinner. It will have to respond to both policy-makers and technology companies. To find out how successful will be this reaction, the international analyst firm Pew Research Center conducted a study on the future of privacy.

Pew surveyed more than 2.5 thousand of experts - IT-specialists, sociologists, Internet pioneers, asked them if politicians and developers have succeed to create a "secure, massively recognized and credible infrastructure to ensure the right to privacy to 2025" and offer people the available opportunity to defend their own personal information.

Pew experts said, that approximately 55% of the respondents do not believe that in the next 10 years, this infrastructure will be created, but 45% said that it would be possible. But, regardless of the answer, most experts are in solidarity that online life is public in nature.

- Almost everyone agrees that the environment is changing - said study co-author Lee Rainie. - About half said that we can adapt to this, and the other half - that it will inexorably devour human life ... and leave the people in a position where they have little control over their own privacy.

The problem of privacy today is at the limelight of global debate. The UN is working on a General Assembly resolution, which call for the state to respect and protect the right of individuals to privacy.

The study - an attempt to look at privacy in the light of technological change, rapidly growing monetization of digital communication and the changing relations between citizens and the government, which will continue over the next decade. "We are at a crossroads," - said the chief adviser of the Ministry of National Security Vytautas Butrimas.

- George Orwell may have been optimistic, - said one of his colleagues Butrimasa.

Many experts agreed that the safety and protection of personal information are the fundamental problem of the digital world. One of the issues is raised by active professionals surveyed:
Can an ordinary person decide whether he wants to be followed?

- In the future, people are divided into those who value privacy and those who value convenience, - said Professor Niels Ole Finnemann, head of the Danish research organization DigHumLab.

- The reason for people are not concerned about the protection of private information is that most people experience teaches them that putting their data on display allows commercial (and public) organizations to make their life easier, respond to their needs. At the same time, negative results are usually very serious, but relatively rare, - says a senior researcher of the company British Telecom Bob Briscoe.

- Today we live in an era of unprecedented observation, says Chief of Sage Bionetworks John Wilbanks.

- I do not think that 10 years are enough for politicians to catch up with technological advances. We have never had widespread surveillance - and even widespread observation chosen voluntarily

The widespread use of targeted advertising is one of the main partners of privacy killers, experts say.

- People are no longer scared when they see ads related to the things they were looking for. It has solved the problem, - said Lee Rainie.