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Pew: Internet privacy is a fantasy, will merely be a ‘fetish’ by 2025, according to experts

If you’re still holding out hope for the preservation of “Internet privacy,” you may need to adjust your ideals a bit. The future of online privacy is cloudy, and policymakers and technology innovators have a weighty task on their hands – one they’re likely to fumble. This is one of the overarching findings of a recent canvassing of more than 2,500 experts by Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project.

“The Future of Privacy” is a report from Pew forecasting whether policymakers and technology leaders will be able to “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.”

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About 55 percent of respondents said they don’t think the above will actually happen, while the other 45 percent said they do think a satisfactory privacy infrastructure will be established in the next 10 years.

A shared sentiment from both sides of the table was that online life is inherently public, something that won’t surprise anyone who’s part of a social network or has kept up with news headlines in recent years. Pew highlighted this anonymous response: “Privacy will be the new taboo and will not be appreciated or understood by upcoming generations.”

The report listed a number of common ideas shared by respondents, including: privacy and security are foundational issues of the digital world, we are living in an unprecedented condition of ubiquitous surveillance, we need little more than personal convenience to be compelled to share our personal information, and privacy norms are always changing.

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Another theme gleaned from the responses to Pew’s canvassing is that an arms race of sorts is unfolding, one between privacy-protecting technology and privacy-penetrating technology. “As Google Glass and attendant projects grow, the so-called Internet of Things becomes increasingly aware of literally everything, and as programmers begin jumping on algorithmic schemes to sift, curate, and predict the data, notions of privacy will be considered a fetish,” according to an attorney at a major law firm.

The hotly anticipated Apple Watch may be another test for the protection of personal privacy in an increasingly technology-dependent age. Connecticut Attorney State General George Jepsen recently requested to meet with Apple CEO Tim Cook about how personal data collected by the Apple Watch will be protected.