A study conducted by Pew Research projects a less-than-rosy future for the privacy of internet users. The group sent opt-in invitations to experts including technology builders, researchers, managers, policymakers, marketers, and analysts in order to gauge the state of online privacy rights. 2,511 respondents answered questions regarding whether or not policy makers and technology innovators will create a secure privacy-rights infrastructure by 2025. The majority said no.
55% of the respondents do not believe that an accepted privacy-rights regime and infrastructure will be created in the next 10 years, while 45% said yes. But as the respondents elaborated on their answers, they indicated that the answers are not black and white. The study quotes John Wilbanks, chief commons officer for Sage Bionetworks:
I do not think 10 years is long enough for policy makers 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. Predicting how it shakes out is just fantasy.
On the flipside, the study quotes an analyst who works on technical and policy coordination:
By 2025, there will be an international consensus among Internet organizations on how best to balance personal privacy and security with popular content and services. The patchwork approach of national privacy protections will be harmonized globally in 2025, and the primacy of security concerns will be more balanced by such an international consensus. In 2025, the public will see the need to reduce the primary focus on security and create a better, workable balance in favor of protection privacy.
Still, some respondents insisted that trying to predict today what the world of online privacy and security will look like in 10 years is futile because the technology will be different. The notions of privacy and freedom will have changed so drastically by 2025 that we have no idea how to think about them realistically in 2015. And still others — ones who had provided answers favoring the notion that a privacy infrastructure will exist — pointed out that they were being optimistic.
For now, it seems as though doubt reigns surrounding whether any practical, trusted privacy structure will ever come to be — a sorry prospect for all web users. It is safe to conclude that there is much work to be done among governments, corporations, and users in order to figure out the next steps for the online world and protecting personal data.