Imagining the Internet Project

  Responses in reaction to the following statement were assembled from a select group of 1,286 Internet stakeholders in the fall 2004 Pew Internet & American Life Predictions Survey. The survey allowed respondents to select from the choices "agree," "disagree" or "I challenge" the predictive statement. Some respondents chose to expand on their answer, writing an explanation of their position; many did not. Some respondents chose to identify themselves with each answer; many did not. We share some - not all - of the responses here. Workplaces of respondents whose reactions are listed below are attributed here only for the purpose of indicating a level of internet expertise; the statements reflect personal viewpoints and do not represent their companies' or government agencies' policies or positions. Some answers have been edited in order to share more respondents' replies. Below is a selection of the many carefully considered responses to the following statement.

Prediction on embedded networks
As computing devices become embedded in everything from clothes to appliances to cars to phones, these networked devices will allow greater surveillance by governments and businesses. By 2014, there will be increasing numbers of arrests based on this kind of surveillance by democratic governments as well as by authoritarian regimes.

Compiled reactions from the 1,286 respondents:
  59% of internet experts agreed
  15% disagreed
    8% challenged the prediction
  17% did not respond

IF surveillance tools really get that good and ubiquitous, this should lead to LESS crime and FEWER arrests! (Perhaps a spike up in the interim.) - Benjamin M. Compaine, editor of "The Digital Divide: Facing a Crisis or Creating a Myth?" and coauthor of "Who Owns the Media?"

I believe it will take longer to completely roll out, but that we are surely headed in that direction. - Moira Gunn, Tech Nation

Yes, but there will also be increasing black-market activity. - Douglas Rushkoff, author/New York University Interactive Telecommunications Program

This type of monitoring has been increasing on a regular basis for some time now. This is part of the mission for the NSA. It?s also something that can be automated, so it's a natural consequence of the technology. Technology is the great enabler of Freedom or Tyranny. It's the responsibility of the people to nurture the former rather than the latter. - Robert Lunn, FocalPoint Analytics/USC Digital Future Project

This is inevitable and worrisome. At some point, probably beyond 2014, the courts, at least in this country, may try to control the use of Internet devices by law enforcement by barring evidence gathered in certain ways from being used in court. But, that process will be very difficult and take a long time to evolve. - Stanley Chodorow, University of California at San Diego/Council on Library and Information Resources

The USA Patriot Act has already diminished our civil liberties and made it possible to disguise flimsy excuses for "probable cause" as legitimate reasons for surveillance. The courts have consistently ruled in favor of businesses' rights to monitor their employees' communications. The prevalence of technologies like GPS and RFID will make it almost impossible to control the extent to which commercial enterprises monitor the activities of customers and potential customers. And so long as we treat the war on terror as an ongoing state of war in the traditional sense, it will be almost impossible to challenge such intrusions. - Lois Ambash, Metaforix

There will be greater surveillance, probably; greater arrests, maybe. But this is a chilling prospect overall. - J. Scott Marcus, Federal Communications Commission

This statement seems to focus on some of the negative aspects of greater connectivity and availability of information. Increases in connectivity will provide us with greater and easier access to products and services, as well as increased surveillance. I suspect a tradeoff of greater access, may be a loss of personal privacies. - Gary Kreps, George Mason University/National Cancer Institute

I think that significant limits will be placed on government use of this information - at least in democratic countries. - Jonathan Band, partner, Morrison & Foerster LLP (law firm)

Agreed and this is happening now. The current terrorist context and the networked nature of the Internet facilitates better surveillance. What occurs politically in the next ten years will determine if the situation gets better, worse or if there is a political backlash. If terrorism continues unabated the situation will only get worse because it will give legislators an excuse for laws like the Patriot Act. - Jonathan Peizer, CTO, Open Society Institute

Most of this surveillance will be private in nature, and that private firms will be unwilling to make their databases widely available. I agree there will be lots of surveillance, but I don't see it being turned over to government authorities. Instead, it will be used to market to us in ever-more-personalized ways. - Susan Crawford, fellow, Center for Democracy & Technology and with the Yale Law School Information Society Project

Anyone who believes such things is not thinking through the consequences. Possibilities for surveillance are already well beyond our capacity to keep up with them, as the inability of our intelligence to keep up with internet "chatter" now demonstrates. And arresting people doesn't resolve but only begins a process: with courts and prisons overloaded, you have to have much greater faith in the possibilities of a police state than I have to imagine significant increases in arrests. - George Otte, technology expert

Sadly this is possible. However, it would be technological determinism to say that this will happen. Why is the Internet inherently good or bad, surely as Castells suggests what is key is the nature of people. If society becomes less tolerant and more authoritarian then the Internet will assist this. If society becomes more open, tolerant and participative, then technology will enhance this. Technology is the tool of people, it does not automatically lead them to one route or another. - Nigel Jackson, Bournemouth University, UK

What happens in the U.S., I fear, will be much different from that of authoritarian regimes. Still, the effect of the global information flow is, I believe, toward democratization and the institutional arrangements that protect both free speech and privacy. People will want to be in contact with each other and not be subject to observation and arrest. They, therefore, will insist on regulations and laws to protect these. - William B. Pickett, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

First, embedded networks are going to take some time to grow to the point where they could provide this kind of information. Second, democratic societies will likely see some controls on the use of these kinds of surveillance methods. - Ezra Miller, Ibex Consulting, Ottawa, Canada

The interests to build in identification of everything from CPUs to clothing using a wide variety of markers - electronic and otherwise - will outpace the ability or interest of the populace to block or thwart these systems. Attempts by constitutionalists, libertarians, the privacy-minded, and individualists will lag behind commercial and security interests in their ability to enact policy to protect against this increased surveillance. - Dan Ness, MetaFacts

Technology has still not proven how it can make a class more efficient than a physical class. It may happen someday, and technology will definitely contribute to what is described in the prediction, but not (on a massive scale) in 10 years and not in the form envisaged. I believe individuals will move more than ever. - Daniel Kaplan, FING (France's Next-Generation Internet Foundation)

The civil libertarians will still be strong in the next ten years. The real danger of this technology is in thirty years, when there are a couple of generations who have grown up with this and don't see it as an infringement of their rights, but as a legitimate governmental and workplace security tool. - Peter Eckart, Hull House Association

These kind of paranoid fantasies just make our society less inclined to adopt important new technologies. While other nations, like the Japan, are racing ahead with RFID and other networked applications, we are responding to zealots who want to prevent technological innovation. Besides the technology generally not enabling this kind of surveillance, if there were any abuses, laws would quickly be passed prohibiting them. - Rob Atkinson, Progressive Policy Institute

I agree with the statement but would like to add that the public will have greater access to devices and hacks that block or scramble such surveillance devices. - Bornali Halder, World Development Movement

Data collection and the ability or desire to process it will thwart large scale social control. This will also be affected by counter-surveillance and counter-measures by those who really pose a threat. - Ted M. Coopman, University of Washington

There will be an increased ability to track people's movements and activities, either as a surveillance action in real-time or through a record check after the fact during an investigation, such as through tracking of cell-phones, cars, and other wireless internet connected devices. As the benefits to crime reduction rise, there will be increased tension will our traditional ideas of civil liberties. - William Stewart,

Embedded network technologies will become a useful tool for law enforcement. In 5-10 years as tracking technology use becomes more sophisticated and widespread, a deterrent effect will come into play decreasing a huge variety of crimes from kidnapping to theft to murder among others. Over time as the deterrent becomes more real, arrests will decrease in democratic societies, but will increase in authoritarian regimes. - Richard W. DeVries Jr., DeVries Strategic Services, St. Charles, IL

This is a ''Star Trek'' meets ''Big Brother'' prediction. The integration of computing into our social fabric will be gradual, and people will chafe against infringement on personal liberties. The will be a balance between more information and personal privacy. This prediction also doesn't acknowledge that if everything was wired there would be an immense challenge to dealing with the huge ''infoglut'' that would occur. - Lyle Kantrovich, Cargill/blogger

The devices will be every day more independent and the democracy will increase, too. - Joao Sartori, blogger

And the following are from predictors who chose to remain anonymous: [Workplaces of respondents whose reactions are listed below include Booz Allen Hamilton, Government Executive Magazine, Harvard University, RAND, Internet2, Microsoft, FCC, Stanford University, AOL, Proteus Foundation, University of Minnesota, Penn State University, Discern LLC, BMC, St. Cloud Communications, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Integrated Media Association, Future of Music Coalition, Morino Institute, University of East Anglia, University of Illinois at Chicago, Quality GxP, Polaris Venture Partners, Council on Competitiveness, American Systems Service Corporation, FAD Research, France Telecom, Daiwa Institute of Research, ICF Consulting, York University, Curtin University of Technology, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Blue and others.]

Technologies like RFID put the Orwellian vision of big brother an abuse away. We will have cameras watching all our cities, RFID tags in all our products, smart products in our homes - all networked and all the related information stored in a database. As a country we have to be careful not to let our fears and our good intentions turn our networks into the "Matrix" or a revival of the Total Information Awareness Program. All the information will be out there. Privacy will no longer exist per se. It will only exist in the artificial sense in that it will have to be regulated. Our ability to do that will be critical to keeping our own democratic construct together.

While I doubt things will look like "Bladerunner," I do think since crime will become more ethereal, the way it is tracked will have to catch up. I think you will see a dramatic increase in non-violent e-crime ... it is less messy, easier to cover your tracks, and will be attractive to non-traditional criminals.

Right now, almost no one knows what RFID means. In five years, everyone will.

Between RFID, sensory networks, Homeland Security and the Patriot Act, how could anyone bet against an increasingly intrusive surveillance state?

Like any technology, uses of embedded computing devices have good and bad implications. I expect that important arrests will occur that will increase the Societal value of the technology, and I also expect that the technology will be abused to some degree by all governments.

This may happen in the more distant future, but it is hard to see this happening within the next ten years. Private businesses may do this - for example, catching shoplifters - but I think governments will lag behind for both technical and political reasons.

We are ill-prepared legally and morally for omnipresent sensors.

The innovators of these tools have consistently been ahead of government efforts to counter their influence. This will continue to be so, and citizens will continue to "get away with" activities using technology that government does not understand.

More likely that this trend will chill deviant behaviors (benign and less benign), rather than result in more arrests. Individuals, too, will be surveillors as well as surveilled.

I don?t think it will be like in "Minority Report," but civil liberties are at risk if we are not more careful.

It goes far beyond arresting people. This will be a method of social control in more subtle ways, too. The risk of being seen as "different" will grow, and children will grow up with the knowledge that their every move is being watched. This is a recipe for killing the kind of independent thinking that creates innovation, vibrant political debate and a free society in general.

This is a double-edged sword. Digital literacy will expand to include protection of self from retailers as well as governments.

Only by constant vigilance will this kind of surveillance be kept under control.

This is likely not just because of "embedded devices," but because of eroding anonymity and great pressures to reduce anonymous activity to a negligible presence in society.

There will be arrests, and these will be the proving grounds for protecting privacy, speech and the openness of the internet.

It is not a given that embedded computing should translate into control. Embedded devices can be anonymized and we should expect a greater effort in the democratic world to take advantage of these technologies while we minimize their capacity of tracking people.

I think there will be more surveillance, but if the recent reports on the capacity of the FBI and CIA are any indication, law enforcement does not seem to have the capacity to use the increased surveillance. That will probably come over time, but the applications and training take a long time.

I agree with the possibility, but am not so sure that the surveillance mechanisms for dealing with the massive data collected by these devices will keep up with the growth. Without new approaches to extracting potential patterns it will be difficult to pinpoint possible threats- there may be more arrests, but they may not be the right ones.

The pervasive use of technology without well thought through privacy and civil liberty protections, threaten to change our society in this regard. All one has to do is combine pervasive computing and the full, most liberal interpretation of the Patriot Act and we make George Orwell's version of 1984 look Libertarian.

This is a legal rather than technical issue, related to the various terror laws. I do not think the technical capacity for spying will be higher, only that the laws will be relaxed still further and agencies more efficient in cross-matching data (ala David Lyon, Mark Poster etc.).

Certainly more so in authoritarian regimes, but not necessarily more so in democratic governments. However, the use of those devices may make some democratic governments more authoritarian.

Phones may take on more, but this other stuff just can't happen within a decade. Note Carver Mead's 11-year rule: It takes 11 years from the time we have a credible lab demo. I haven't seen such a demo.

Greater surveillance possible - yes - but more arrests? Hopefully more privacy restrictions, so information gleaned from any potential surveillance cannot be used, and will be discouraged.

As the devices proliferate, I have a hard time seeing that law enforcement and government will keep pace with non-criminal use of IT. They will have to ask what will they gain by running continuous surveillance based on these devices. I can imagine these might be resources that could be used, but it's a sci-fi scenario that would have them commonly monitored.

The private sector and government has increasingly endorsed surveillance technologies. Monitoring devices are now pervasive in the work place, but in the next decade surveillance will move into the home. Insurance companies are proposing instrumentation of motor vehicles; the department of corrections is embracing "house-arrest" technology; government is moving to pervasive monitoring of public spaces for counter-terrorism.

Unfortunately, if you care about civil liberties, this will likely be the case.

The number will increase, but watchdog groups will keep us from entering a "Big Brother" dystopia.

We do have watchdogs in the U.S. to make sure our rights are protected. The same cannot be said about authoritarian regimes. Seems very Orwellian, doesn't it?

Engineers need to put out RFCs that would make it very difficult to do this on an unauthorized basis (with no legal warrant). Current Internet protocols make it too easy for governments and corporations with the right expertise to invade privacy.

The use by government will become entrenched before the lawmakers can do much about if, even if they wanted to. But in a society where there are no secrets, the value of secrecy declines.

HELP! This is the demon dark side of the technology evolution - and will be the beast that destroys the marvel of the Internet.

I hope so, except for the part about authoritarian regimes, but there will be a declining number of those.

We need policy constraints to ensure privacy. This is a big issue for the next decade.

We are already seeing consumer backlash on adware and spyware.

The impact will be small. Mostly "accidental" discoveries analagous to the occasional video recording of crimes in progress. Criminals will turn the things off!

I am one of those privacy nuts who believe that we are well along the way toward this kind of ubiquitous monitoring/surveillance.

Look at the growing use of electronic monitoring and ticketing for traffic violations. We're only just starting to see the use of electronic monitoring by governments. This will become a very serious issue once the public begins to see the full measure of what could happen.

The next decade will require methods of preventing terrorism. While civil liberties must be protected, the trade off with personal and communal security may result in compromises.

It seems unavoidable. How many arrests have been made due to credit card records that in an earlier age of cash only would have not been possible?

I agree with this assertion although civil liberties will be vigorously fought for in democratic societies that will slow this trend in those societies.

RFID, UWB, great technologies with potentially nasty applications.

There is no stopping increased surveillance and the climate of fear, which I expect to continue, will only increase the political viability of surveillance as a means of control. Other factors pushing this trend will be the spin-out of cheap miniaturized surveillance technology from military applications, and increased fear(mongering) due to the aging of the population and increased immigration.

Scandal will come from democracies, but danger from rogue states.

I am concerned that the civil liberties and privacy issues are not getting the discussion and the creative thinking for solutions that they deserve.

I am concerned about what happens when ubiquitous computing meets a terrorism-obsessed world. Governments will have the ability and excuse to curtail privacy and civil rights if they are able to continue to capitalize on fear of terrorism. I think that the citizens of many countries are going to struggle with this in the next decade or so.

This is not really the question. The question is, will due process and constitutional law keep pace and maintain protections. ''Who watches those who watch us?''

In a society worshipping at the altar of convenience, who will stop it from occurring?

As we are further distanced from literate values such as privacy, we will cease to see privacy as a value that ought to be preserved. Not sure if democratic governments will be able to be said to still exist.

The volume of information will likely be too great for much affect. Possibly review of data after crimes.

The use of technological surveillance is continually increasing and becoming more sophisticated. Governments and business harness the possibilities that technology offer to increase their information collection, and their control. The fostering of fear is simply one measure that will be used to legitimate this information collection (as seen in the U.S.'s legitimization of increased surveillance powers following Sept. 11, 2001).

Add to this: citizens doing the surveillance of each other!

Unfortunately, I must agree. The imposition of the US Patriot Act and the actions of the US and other governments against persons perceived to be threatening to the country, have hardened determination to invade privacy. Despite aggressive actions by privacy advocates, the press of technology developments will outweigh their ability to curb their more widespread use.

Pretty much right on. There may be some pushback from civil libertarians, and by 2014 some sort of legal beachhead may be established in Congress as a result of widespread civil rights abuses.

This will be a part of the transition of democratic governments into authoritarian regimes. Already occurring.

No doubt, the potential for the use of imbedded computing devices to erode privacy rights will continue to increase. I do think that most Americans and others in historically democratic nations so value the right to privacy and are already concerned about its erosion, that a tip of the scale towards less privacy will produce a backlash. That backlash will lead to a whole new set of regulations and laws with respect to the use of imbedded devices for surveillance in most democratic countries. The potential for invasion of privacy where no historical imperative exist for the right of privacy will make the use of imbedded technology for surveillance not only likely, but a given.

It will happen slowly and subtly. Only in cases that are large and well-hyped in the media will it be challenged. This is most likely going to happen with earlier cases, eventually surveillance will become an old news story and will not be deemed newsworthy, and then people won't know about it.

It's pretty much inevitable that if embedded technologies collect information about us, then that information will be used by others in ways that invade privacy and introduce opportunities for new crimes against the person. I'm less sure about the use of this surveillance on the part of governments (democratic ones anyway) than on the part of commercial operations.

Sadly, this is likely primarily because of the rationale provided by overreaction to the ''terrorist threat'' in the U.S. and the skillful use of that rhetoric by even more authoritarian governments.

We are already seeing the beginnings of this trend. If there is another terrorist attack, pressure on government to increase surveillance will also increase. Surveillance by business may not be as easy. A consumer revolt is brewing against spyware and the use of cookies to monitor usage.

I believe certain watchdog groups and concerned citizens will prevent this from happening. As evidence of the prediction becomes "news" these groups will fight the application of "tracking" technology into their personal lives. As long as government doesn't outlaw the choice of "non-use" of these devices, I believe the majority of self-determining individuals and manufacturers will be successful on the "anonymous" side of production/lifestyle.

This is sure to happen, and it presents an important challenge to all of us who believe in individual liberty. We must think through the way technology changes what is private, and develop new concepts of reasonable privacy that preserve liberty and are workable in a networked world.


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