As we monetize the Internet, we may be threatening it.
That’s one of the missives coming out of a new report from the Pew Research Centre and Elon University, titled “Digital Life 2025,” writes Nellie Bowles for Re/code. In that report, Internet experts say they’re less concerned with government surveillance or foreign nation-states’ activities.
Instead, their biggest worry is about what Internet companies do with consumer data – because in a digital age, all that data is power.
Take our email inboxes, for example.
“When commercialization started, maybe you wound up having marketers filling your inbox. Now there’s more noise than signal in your personal email — some criminal, some pranksters, everyone searching for the buck,” said Janna Anderson, a professor at Elon University, in an interview with Re/code. “Monetization is seen by some as the goose killing the golden egg, as the threat to the Net.”
While Anderson has been running this survey for a decade, this is the first year she’s included questions on respondents’ concerns around the Internet, rather than sticking to positive questions about their sentiments towards it.
Among some of respondents’ biggest concerns were concerns about the need to change Internet architecture and the flow of information to make money, or to meet commercial pressures.
“You can’t blame the CEO or the VP of marketing for finding ways to use the Internet to benefit their corporations, but it’s the drive by everyone to do that that is raising concerns,” said Anderson. “But then again, who’s to say who gets to earn a buck on the Internet and who doesn’t?”
Others included foreign countries censoring the Internet in an attempt to wrest more political power, or to maintain their own security.
Other respondents said they feared people would lose trust in their government, thanks to Edward Snowden’s revelations about NSA surveillance. There may also be more surveillance in the future, they noted. With those fears of being watched, others said they were concerned people would clamp down on the amount of information they share online, meaning they’d be less likely to share interesting content – cutting down on the flow of information across the Internet.
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