Imagining the Internet Project

  Responses to this 2020 scenario were assembled from Internet stakeholders in the2008 Pew Internet & American Life/Elon University Predictions Survey. Some respondents chose to identify themselves; many did not. We share some—not all—of the responses here. Workplaces of respondents who shared their identity are attributed only for the purpose of indicating a level of expertise; statements reflect personal views. If you would like to participate in the next survey, mail andersj [at] elon dotedu; include information on your expertise.  

Scenario Four:
The Evolution of Privacy,
Identity, and Forgiveness

Prediction: Transparency heightens individual integrity and forgiveness. In 2020, people are even more open to sharing personal information, opinions, and emotions than they are now. The public’s notion of privacy has changed. People are generally comfortable exchanging the benefits of anonymity for the benefits they perceive in the data being shared by other people and organizations. As people’s lives have become more transparent, they have become more responsible for their own actions and more forgiving of the sometimes-unethical pasts of others. Being “outed” for some past indiscretion in a YouTube video or other pervasive-media form no longer does as much damage as it did back in the first decade of the 21st Century. Carefully investigated reputation corrections and clarifications are a popular daily feature of major media outlets’ online sites

Compiled reactions from the 1,196 respondents:
44% Mostly agreed
45% Mostly disagreed
10% Did not respond

Expert respondents' reactions (N=578):
45% Mostly agreed
44% Mostly disagreed
11% Did not respond

Respondents to this scenario were presented with a brief set of information outlining the status quo of the issue that prefaced this scenario as of 2007. It read:

People openly share more intimate details of their lives online every day, and they are flocking to social networks and uploading and/or viewing homemade videos by the millions. Ubiquitous computing is diffusing into everyday life. Much of what goes on in daily life is more visiblemore transparentand personal data of every variety is being put on display, tracked, tagged, and added to databases. The number of mobile camera phones in use will top 1 billion in 2007; miniaturized surveillance cameras are simultaneously becoming extremely inexpensive, sophisticated, and pervasive; clothing is being designed with technology woven into the fabric; and it is expected that most surfaces can and will be used as two-way interfaces in the future.

Overview of Respondents' Reactions
The comments supplied by respondents, who split their vote evenly, were widely varied, but included: Transparency is an unstoppable force that has positives and negatives. It might somehow influence people to live lives in which integrity and forgiveness are more likely / it won’t have any positive influence, in fact it makes everyone vulnerable, and bad things will happen because of it. The concept of “privacy” is changing, it is becoming scarce, and it will be both protected and threatened by emerging innovations. Tracking and databasing will be ubiquitous. Reputation maintenance and repair will be required. Some people will have multiple digital identities; some people will withdraw.

Below are select responses from survey participants who agreed to be identified with their statements. This is not the full extent of responses. To see more, read the report PDF, and to read reactions from participants who preferred to remain anonymous, please click here.

There is a learning curve in this rather new phenomenon, and those who are excessive in what they share are sometimes suffering the consequences. In the future, while sharing personal information, opinions, and emotions will likely increase, it will be done with far greater discrimination and the material shared will be “managed” more carefully by the person contributing it. People learn! –Don Heath, Internet pioneer; former president and CEO of the Internet Society; member of U.S. State Department Advisory Committee on International Communication and Information Policy

People will discover that the anonymity of 2007 was the free love of the 1960's and sadly many will live their lives with the consequences. –Robert Grant, chief executive officer, VoyaCare Inc.

One can only hope that people will get a clue and become more circumspect about disclosing personal information. The EU's privacy-protection laws are a step toward assisting them and preventing abuses. On the other hand, many social networks will become more Borg-like. So I am less than certain about my disagreement with the premise. –Steve Goldstein, ICANN Board member, retired from National Science Foundation, where his job in the 1990s was to help diffuse the Internet globally

My big fear is that homogeneity prevails in 2020 with people talking about the importance of individuality as they continue to sink into a morass of mediocrity. –Michael Castengera, senior lecturer at the University of Georgia’s Grady College and president of Media Strategies and Tactics Inc., a media consulting firm

Sooner than later, Web 2.0 will become old-fashioned. We are start seeing now problems associated with private information shared on networks. Those problems will become larger and more frequent in the future. –Sebastian Ricciardi, associate with Jauregui & Associates, a law firm in Buenos Aires; leader in the Argentina chapter of the Internet Society, formerly of ICANN’s At-Large Advisory Committee

I live in a small town where everyone knows everyone else. This does not lead me to believe that knowing more about people makes you forgive them. –John Levine, founder of Taughannock Networks; a leader of the Internet Research Task Force’s Anti-Spam Research Group and the Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial E-mail

The type of transparency currently in vogue has nothing to do with either integrity or forgiveness—it is more closely aligned with exhibitionism. There is no reason to believe that it will evolve into a vehicle for responsible actions. –Hinda Feige Greenberg, Ph.D., director of the information center for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, dedicated to improving healthcare for Americans

Reciprocal access to personal information will change the nature of human relations, increase the depth of social networks, and promote interpersonal cooperation and coordination. –Gary Kreps, chair of the department of communication, George Mason University; formerly founding chief of the health communication and informatics branch of the National Cancer Institute

 I doubt the primary assumptions regarding widely distributed benefits from transparency, especially with the rise of exploitative/manipulative promotion enabled through datamining. –Oscar Gandy, author, activist, retired emeritus professor of communication, University of Pennsylvania

My students are already completely comfortable with living a public-private life online. They believe that nothing is private—they have no expectations of a quiet unknown thought. Nor do they think that the ability to speak anonymously is particularly valuable. In fact, they're suspicious of anonymity. They think you are required to carry a driver's license wherever you go—on foot—in America. So I'm confident that "sharing" will become even more the norm. I'm not as confident (particularly in the political realm) that the past actions of public figures will be forgiven. The rest of us will be able to muddle along just fine, but political candidates will have to live completely examined lives from grade school on. They wanted to be loved. –Susan Crawford, founder of OneWebDay, celebrated each Sept. 22; ICANN board member; associate professor, Cardozo Law School; visiting professor, Yale Law School

Transparency might be the unexpectedly beneficial side effect of losing privacy. The time to do something about protecting individual communications and data about individual behavior from snooping by the State or your ex spouse, your irate neighbor, the person you cut off in traffic today, targeted ads, or spam was about ten years ago. At the same time, the same net of media-veillance, data-veillance, electronic bread-crumb-collecting, and voluntary hyperdisclosure that has forever obsoleted 20th century notions of privacy also makes it more difficult public figures and institutions to hide their gaffes, indiscretions, and malfeasance. The critical question is whether a sufficient number of people will be reputation-literate enough use online reputation information effectively or to erase bad information that stains their own reputation. It's not just the truth that has become nakedly visible—along with the heretofore hidden true information has come misinformation and disinformation. Wikipedia controversies have revealed the evolution of social mechanisms in the Wikipedia community to address the reputation-damaging possibilities of letting anyone publish; it remains to be seen how effective these evolving social mechanisms will be. Will it be easy to slander people—or easy to see through such attempts? –Howard Rheingold, Internet sociologist and author; one of the first to illuminate virtual communities; author of "Virtual Reality," "Smart Mobs," and "Virtual Community”

Overall technology tends to increase privacy, not reduce it. –David Moschella, global research director for the Computer Sciences Corporation’s Leading Edge Forum; Computerworld columnist

Mostly agree, however, the Internet needs to find ways to both forget information and for information to be corrected (or put into context: a new right of reply). ––Adam Peake, executive research fellow and telecommunications policy analyst, the Center for Global Communications (GLOCOM; studies the intersection of public policy and the Internet
I remember teaching in Tokyo in 1986 and how the Japanese handled living so close together, with paper like walls. They could hear everything in the apartments next to them, yet admitted to “hearing nothing.” Same would be said of offices without walls, crowded trains etc. People learn to “not care” or not listen, or to be careful to not talk about or judge what they do hear. Ideally that will be what happens with our loss of privacy (whether self disclosure, or video/audio surveillance). –Ed Lyell, professor of business and economics, Adams State College, Regis University, San Luis Valley Board of Educational Services; pioneer in issues regarding Internet and education

This is an optimistic scenario, but one that is at least plausible. The “shock then shrug” progression seems to appear time and again, across a wide variety of issues; I see no reason why it wouldn't be replicated with online media. I would qualify this scenario, however, by noting that there would be much discussion about what kinds of "unethical" pasts would and wouldn't qualify for social forgiveness. Licentiousness would probably get a pass, for example, while cruelty probably would not. It's likely, but not certain, that this will skew generationally, with younger people being more willing to shrug and forgive than older people. –Jamais Cascio, originator of Open the Future, also works with the Institute for the Future, Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, and Worldchanging

Generally, increased transparency will heighten individual integrity and forgiveness—to a point. So long as the individual has some feeling of being "part of the crowd" transparency will continue to drive the behaviors described. However, when transparency shines a spotlight on an individual in the crowd, the individual will often retreat from the experience. This element of human psychology will require service providers to tread a fine line with their privacy v. access policies and ensure some level of anonymity in the crowd without singling out the individual too expressly. The scenario described requires a high degree of conforming normative behavior. I'm not so sure that a community the size of the Internet has a sufficiently narrow band of behaviors in the community required to set forth a standard of behavior and accountability that could be acceptable to enough people to become commonplace. There may be pockets of behavior similar to what is described, but the Internet community is too fragmented and individual to truly drive the behaviors described.–Ross Rader, director of retail services, Tucows Inc.; works with ICANN in the Registrars Constituency, part of the GNSO (Generic Names Supporting Organization)

Unfortunately, the scenario assumes a global level of morality that the human race shows little sign of achieving.  Improvements in identity theft prevention will reduce the level of personal crime inflicted online but this will not change the lack of personal integrity.–Adrian Schofield, manager of the applied research unit, Johannesburg Centre for Software Engineering, South Africa; leader in the World Information Technology and Services Alliance

I agree with the first sentence, that in 2020 people will be more open to sharing personal information, but I disagree with the rest of the scenario. I don't think sharing personal information will be done due to some perceived public benefit, nor will people become more responsible for their actions or more forgiving. Rather, I think we'll see a sort of bloodsport made of discovering indiscretions. Perhaps bloodsport is too strong a word. Maybe a better way to put it is that we'll see a new form of what "reality TV" already provides. –Steve Jones, professor of communication and associate dean of liberal arts and sciences, University of Illinois-Chicago, co-founder of Association of Internet Researchers

While I agree that people are likely to continue to freely share personal information online, and that people might be willing to exchange anonymity for perceived benefits, this prediction misses the primary concern with such a scenario: the harms that users do not perceive. Many share data with companies such as Facebook because they perceive a benefit: improved social interaction. What many users fail to understand completely is the manner in which a company such as FB collects, aggregates, and uses that personal data. Even if the public's notion of privacy has changed, the potential harms have not. I also disagree with the notion that transparency will bring a new sense of responsibility and forgiveness. Rather, the fact that so much of my live will be indexable and searchable via powerful online tools such as Google/FaceBook/Web 2.0, users will be more timid, afraid of their past, and less likely to share certain pieces information online. We also might see a rise in an attempt to obfuscate one's online identity: creating accounts with misinformation in order to confuse/confound those who want to create a user profile or appropriate the data. Finally, while being “outed” by YouTube might become less of a concern, I doubt media outlets will seek to investigate reputational corrections—it is the drama of damaged reputations that attract viewers, not the re-stitching of a torn one. –Michael Zimmer, Ph.D. and resident fellow at the Information Society Project at Yale Law School; research includes social and cultural dimensions of new information technologies

Yes... if appropriate checks and balances are clearly seen to be adopted and adhered to by those services holding data on our behalf. We might increasingly trust our peers, but our trust in data-holding corporations is falling ever more rapidly. Moves such as the Creative Commons/Talis Open Data Licensing initiative, Google's Open Social, the Attention Trust, etc., are all (small) steps in the right direction. –Paul Miller, technology evangelist on the senior management team at Talis, a company delivering human-centric Web applications, based in Birmingham, UK; a blogger for ZDNet

This was more 50-50. If anything, I think that people will muddle through, learn from their mistakes—i.e., what harms others and themselves—and begin to develop an ethics, including an ethics of information privacy, that will work somewhat against the current tendency among young people to bare all in (virtual) public. Indeed, there is some research that shows that the more people are engaged in online venues such as Facebook, etc., the more they are concerned about privacy, not less—going against earlier assumptions that young people are somewhat naive and/or careless on this point. So, yes, I think people will become more responsible, but as that responsibility becomes more widespread, I don't think it will correlate with greater forgiveness for ethical lapses. Such lapses are more forgivable if there is no well-established practice or ethos that makes us aware of the possible harms, prevailing best practices of using a technology, etc. But once those are in place, then there is less reason to forgive people who thereby should know better. –Charles Ess, a professor of philosophy and religion and researcher on online culture and ethics, Drury University (Springfield, Mo.), and active leader of the Association of Internet Researchers

Why people share intimate details online is a mystery to me, but they clearly want to do it. I disagree that people are becoming more responsible or more forgiving. There will be increasing damage to reputations. –David W. Maher, senior vice president for law and policy, the Public Interest Registry, the Internet top-level domain registry; formerly vice president of public policy for the Internet Society

As far as transparency is concerned, Internet and tools like YouTube and the Daily Motion will have the main role in correcting the stereotypes generated by the traditional media about sensitive issues like terrorism, Islam, and the notion of doctrine. When it comes to privacy, everything has a price and the price we to pay for we “Internauts” is to be more flexible about privacy issues and admit the networks are not secured, but can we survive without Internet? –Hanane Boujemi, ICT researcher for DiploFoundation, working on educating people about Internet policy and Internet governance, Malta

We are moving away from the Fundamentalist influence, so the stigma of "unethical pasts" may be minimized. –Janet D. Cohen, blogger, futurist and trend analyst

People use the Net to resolve uncertainty and to search for the truth as major media has been taken over by desperate corporations. Individuals feel less vulnerable to identity threats, and would rather be authentic online. –Cliff Figallo, social innovator and original member of the first online community – The WELL, now of; expert in fitting and implementing social Web applications to groups

As long as individuality prevails... Two phenomena are acting simultaneously. Internet will continue to offer exposure to anyone who wants some, and will emphasize the need for some individuals to abandon the Internet if it interferes too much with their private life. Which trend will prevail? Being in love with everyone or knowing that everyone is (not) in love with you (-;)]–Louis Houle, president of the Internet Society’s Quebec, Canada, chapter

There will indeed be more transparency than there is now, but human nature will not have been changed. People will simply get better at choosing what to display. –Fred Baker, fellow, Cisco Systems, former Internet Society (ISOC) chairman of the board; Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) leader; an architect of the Internet

It is obvious that privacy is changing in meaning. Online profiles have more information (pictures, data, videos, etc.) and things will only get deeper—with trust playing a critical role in demystifying why most people prefer to remain anonymous online. Just as new residents watch their backs for a while in a new estate before opening up (and being accepted by other residents), online communities will become more open. One of the most disturbing problems today is online crime, which is usually masked by hidden identities. With increasing comfort to move beyond pervasive anonymity, various online communities will be able to move closer to identifying the source of crime-prone online information. –Gbenga Sesan, Internet for development consultant, Paradigm Initiative, Nigeria; his work is tied to the use of ICT’s in socioeconomic transformation, focusing on underserved groups

There will always be a need to keep certain personal information private (medical, legal for example) and people will fight to have the right to keep this type of information private. However, as more people discover that revealing more information allows them to keep connected to their globally distributed friends in an increasingly online world, they will sacrifice a little of what is considered private information (what I like to eat, watch, read etc). –Tze-Meng Tan, Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC), Malaysia, and director at OpenSOS; Internet pioneer as a member of the team that started Malaysia’s largest ISP, TMnet

The Boomer generation will have to fade from social dominance (corporate and political hierarchy) before such openness, especially forgiveness, is achievable. –Todd Spraggins, strategic architect, Nortel Carrier Networks; president and chairman of the board of directors of the Communications Platforms Trade Association

We are indeed moving toward a “Transparent Society” (as per David Brin) and that's likely to be a good thing overall—provided, that is, that the transparency goes both ways, both outward from government/business and inward in equal measure. –Mike Treder, director, Center for Responsible Nanotechnology; expert on the implications of emerging technologies; a research fellow with the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies

Although we are seeing an increase of people using user-generated content technologies in order to share their views, emotions, photos, data, and video with friends, there is yet a tremendous reluctance of the connected population to share information mainly due to the uncertainty of what the companies owning those technologies will do with their personal information, and also because of the fact that they know they could be prey of identity theft schemes. Internet users are getting more educated every day about the potential threats of sharing their own personal information. I do not agree with the statement that “the public's notion of privacy has changed.” On the contrary, the use of the Internet has made people, companies, governments, and policy makers much more aware on the importance to protect privacy and confidential information through numerous mechanisms. –Cristos Velasco, director general of North American Consumer Project on E-Commerce; Mexico-based attorney and active in the Internet Governance Forum and Internet Society

I agree for the most part with the premise, but only if information authentication is also in widespread use. While everything may be out in the open, reputation maintenance and remediation needs to be safeguarded from malicious or unintentional errors. Thus, the ability for information to be disseminated which is falsified or, less heinous, unintentionally incorrect has to be brought under control. –Rich Miller, chief executive officer, Replicate Technologies Inc.; an Internet pioneer with ARPAnet who implemented some of the first computer messaging and conferencing systems

The future is more complex than this set of questions suggests. There will be more geographic/political diversity, and some societies will be more open, other will be more controlled. –Norbert Klein, member of ICANN’s GNSO Council and Internet Society leader who works with Open Institute Cambodia, a company whose primary focus is on information

Privacy concerns will still weigh in quite heavily…Some population segments will be fine with disclosing more in order to get their needs met, such as online dating and people actively looking to connect with others they don't know. They give more info to get more info in this context. I predict, by and large, people will be open to sharing more information in general, just by the sheer volume of more people online in the next 12 years, but not necessarily personal information nor personally identifiable information online. More opinions and emotions, yes, due to the ubiquity of online communications tools and social media sites and a larger WW population using the Internet, but not full transparency and individual forgiveness about what is shared online. Not everyone wants to be net famous... on online video sites like YouTube. Some do, I predict most won't want the WW visibility. –Joanna Sharpe, senior marketing manager, Microsoft

Being outed for some indiscretion will still be punitive. Moreover transparency will work but ways, as it will enhance the monitoring of public officials and working of institutions by private citizens. –Bernardo Huberman, senior fellow and director of the Social Computing Lab, HP Laboratories; consulting professor in the Department of Applied Physics at Stanford University

Reputation and image management is a big part of the public relations industry and it won't go away. Once an indiscretion is outed on the Internet, it will still be tough to get rid of it. Just because it becomes more common to see/read/hear about another’s faux pas online, doesn't make it more acceptable or less embarrassing. Case in point: Britney Spears. Is there anyone left on Earth who doesn't think she's out of control? Just because the media crams coverage of her down our throats every day, doesn't make her poor choices any more acceptable. –Janie Graziani, manager of new media and technology for the American Automobile Association

We will just get more used to sharing data, even when we don't particularly want to, and will learn to modify our behavior in this light. So the outing of past indiscretions will become more commonplace—and therefore less shocking—and so we will forgive them easier. –Jeremy Swinfen Green, Telecom Express, an interactive marketing company

Certainly conceptions of privacy will change, but increased tolerance for difference? Perhaps slightly, but not much. –Alexander Halavais, professor and social informatics researcher, Quinnipiac University; explores the ways in which social computing influences society

This sounds pretty much on the money to me. Only thing I'd add is that the public's notion of identity has become more sophisticated. The citizens of 2020 seamlessly integrate online, digital, physical, role-based, and private aspects of their identity into something  their parents will probably have real trouble understanding. This, of course, has precedents—eg: the rise of teenage consumerism post-war, or the invention of the nuclear family brought on by the industrial revolution.–Jeremy Yuille, digital media coordinator at RMIT Communication Design and program manager at ACID in Melbourne, Australia; previously director at IXDA, the Interaction Design Association

I agree and have published many papers on this exact topic. If everyone is outed for a past indiscretion, the indiscretion loses its scandal factor. –Christine Satchell, Ph.D., senior researcher, Institute for Creative Industries and Innovation, Queensland University of Technology

People will be more tolerant of a general lack of privacy and public exposure, and expectations of privacy will shrivel.  However, I think being “outed” will be just as damaging, if not more so, as to be captured on film doing something damaging will show serious naiveté and a lack of sophistication about the world—perhaps even more damaging than drunken antics themselves. –Jade Miller, Ph.D. student Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California, with a research focus on global flows of information and culture

This scenario is partly “right.” Yes, there will be a greater degree(s) of transparency, BUT in 2020 there will still be those populations who whilst are immersed within new social media (NSM) remain at a distance from such technology. The generation that was born in the 1980s was the first to grow up with technology. The level of transparency in this scenario is something that resonates best with their social sensibilities. However, we (and “them”) are yet to be able to have a handle on the impact of having a digital identity that is out there and permanently available. Yes there is a generation of young people that are “used” to being on YouTube, Facebook, etc. but the culmination of these types of information portals and long tail effect of such information pasts and biographies will still be up for debate in 2020 and not as clear cut as the scenario above makes out. –Maz Hardey, social analyst, blogger, “defender of new media” completing a doctorate funded by the Economic Social Research Council in the UK, based at the University of York

In some respect people will be more open and in other respects they may not be—this is not a clear-cut thing. –Iddo Genuth, founder and chief editor of The Future of Things, a science and technology e-magazine

Already I see younger people who are happier to share more information publically than I am, and I see that trend continuing.  Any other major cultural shift could impact this the other way of course. –Micheál Ó Foghlú, Research Director, Telecommunications Software & Systems Group, Waterford Institute of Technology, Ireland advisory committee; member of W3C; blogger

I think, in the same way Bill Clinton made past drug use a non-issue, that having documented moments of embarrassment will be normal—embarrassing, by definition, but not fatal to most careers. –Clay Shirky, consultant and professor in the Interactive Telecommunications Program at New York University; an expert on the social and economic effects of Internet technologies

I mostly agree but privacy requirements will not disappear and will be catered to by anonymous and nym networks based on open source strong crypto. –Giulio Prisco, chief executive officer of Metafuturing Second Life; formerly department head at the European Satellite Centre, analyst at European Space Agency, and an IT specialist for CERN

I agree that people will be more comfortable with the lack of privacy and more tolerant of indiscretions thus revealed. Other than that, I am highly skeptical of improvements to general moral character suggested by the scenario. –Rollie Cole, director of technology policy, Sagamore Institute for Policy Research, a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank headquartered in Indianapolis, IN

I'm going to run counter-intuitive here, anticipating perhaps a McLuhan-style media reversal. Consider that TV show where people must answer embarrassing public questions while connected to a polygraph, an imperfect but often uncanny system. Or imagine a sci-fi world where everyone is psychic and can detect duplicity. Would this lead to a more open and honest culture, or a more guarded one? Consider Winston Smith, in 1984. Under the surveillance of Big Brother, was he embracing the openness and transparency, or did he become excessively guarded of his every move and gesture? I believe the answer is the latter, and the best reason I see for it is a McLuhan-style reversal. Does this lead to more forgiveness of indiscretions? Or greater paranoia over the ordinary things one does day-to-day, that can be construed as indiscretions in the heightened awareness of a surveillance society? Picking your nose? Scratching various body parts? Checking the change cup of a vending machine?  I'm inclined to think, as does Foucault in Discipline and Punish, the potential observation in the panopticon, the fixing of us all under glass like a butterfly in a case on a pin, creates more discipline and self-censorship, and by extension, less movement of any sort, less action, because movement and action themselves contain risk, and in a discipline society, risk must be minimized, as surely as Major Major Major Major tried to minimize risk in Catch 22. Greater integrity and openness? Hardly. Greater fear and suspicion and paranoia? Most definitely. –Christine Boese, Ph.D., researcher and analyst for Avenue A-Razorfish and Microsoft

I think people’s notion of private vs. public is a relative concept, its construct may change over time but the notion of what is private vs. what is public will always be contested. Thus a sense of vilification over a sense of reward will always be tied to a relative sense of what is loss and what is gain. Being caught with a skimpy model may not jeopardize a political career because people will have lost faith in digital image documents to be authentic proofs of evidence. –Shakib Ahsan, MBA and MA in educational technology, now at Concordia University, Canada

The adults of 2020 are the youth of 2008. They are becoming insensitive to privacy issues, and they are open to share everything about their lives. To hide some information about past and present life will be irrelevant. –Rafik Dammak, software engineer, STMicroelectronics, Tunisia; DiploFoundation participant in the study of Internet

More likely that digital duplicity will become a high art!–Greg Laudeman, utilization catalyst and facilitator, community technology specialist, Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute

Well, enhancement and development of technology doesn't only mean that they are used in similar way and for the same purpose. Also as the technology advances there will be a lot of security issues. As Internet for now is very young, a lot of experiments are going on. By 2020, there will be more clarity on what will lead to what consequences and the safety measures. So I don't think there will be less privacy by 2020. Now also, Let’s talk about WWW. On Facebook it is the user's choice to allow his friends to see his/her detailed profile or only limited profile. So I think by 2020, there will clearly defined security measures developed and implemented for addressing security and privacy issues. –Sudip Aryal, president, Nepal Rural Information Technology Development Society

My agreement is somewhat tempered by concerns that there is great potential for abuse of all this private information by identity thieves and others. And there is great potential for   a public backlash that might well affect future job seekers or candidates for public office. –Jan Schaffer, executive director of J-Lab, the Institute for Interactive Journalism; former business editor and a Pulitzer Prize winner for the Philadelphia Inquirer

We will once again be a small village where everyone knows everyone else...gone will be the days where the cities swallowed up people and hid them from view. –Garland T. McCoy, founder, Technology Policy Institute, a think tank focused on the economics of innovation; formerly senior vice president at the Progress and Freedom Foundation

It is not in human nature to be open, transparent and forgiving.  The problem of the commons (free riding) existed 500 years ago and it will exist in 2020. People are surprisingly invested in celebrities and living vicariously. This includes watching celebrities “burn.” I expect this to continue. –Todd Wagner, health economist, Health Economics Resource Center, Palo Alto, part of the US Veterans Administration; also involved with the Center for Healthcare Evaluation

Social networks will provide ample opportunity to share as much or as little of one's lifestream as possible. Mechanisms for support, enlightenment and education will be as accepted as real world, real life counterparts. In fact, the distinction between sharing online and sharing in person will be blurred extensively. Business, institutions, organizations will have to follow suit or they will not be trusted. –Michael Stephens, assistant professor, graduate school of library and information science, Dominican University, River Forest, Illinois; an expert on “Library 2.0”

In 2020 we will have a different mix of cultures than we see today, and cannot take for granted that western civilization will continue in an independent path, without influence from other cultures that have a different approach to privacy. –Roberto Gaetano, ICANN board member; also responsible for SW development for International Atomic Energy Agency; an active participant in the ICANN policy making process

Integrity doesn't come from telling all to any and everyone who will listen; that is part of someone’s character developed by their parents, families, church/synagogue and other cultural and educational influences. –Dan Larson, president and CEO of PKD Foundation, a non-profit organization working for patient advocacy and education

As technology increases access into people's lives, people will adapt to protect the information they value. If institutions install spy cameras, individuals will find ways to avoid, jam, or work around them. Jamming and spoofing signals will become a personal defense against invasiveness. People who enjoy sharing their lives will simply find new audiences.–Buddy Scalera, vice president for interactive content and market research for CommonHealth Qi, in charge of interactive online strategies, including social and viral marketing

For a new generation of kids growing up around social networks, mmorpg's and IM, things you can share online tend not to be issued as “privacy concerns.” Yet I think an indiscrete video on a 2020's YouTube will always be disturbing—and there's no reason why bullying should stop until there. –Tiago Casagrande, works with social communications and new technologies for verbeat

Like providing for retirement, the burden of maintaining privacy will revert more to the individual. As the awareness of what can happen with data on the net grows so will a set of personal practices to guard against its pitfalls. The definition of what is privacy may change some but the expectation of who is responsible for it will alter drastically. –Jerry McCann, vice president and director of the social marketing group at Carton Donofrio Parners Inc., marketing and advertising firm in the Washington, D.C., area

Lives will not be completely transparent as digital literacy increases and people get more aware of their online presence. Even though they will share more personal information, they will do so knowing about the effects. Every online identity will therefore, to some degree, be constructed. The ubiquitous access to social networks and being “always on” will also lead to a change of social norms. For example: Small day-to-day lies like “I couldn't meet you for coffee because I have been in phone conferences all day” won't work anymore, since your immediate social network will be able to see what you were doing at the time (through your lifestream, status updates etc.). Instead, slightly more open communication will be socially accepted. –Peter Bihr, freelance consultant on Web strategies, communities, blogging and social media based in Berlin, Germany

It's too early to make this kind of prediction. While the Facebook/MySpace phenomenon is real, who knows where the notoriously fickle Internet audience will go next? –Joan Connell, online editor, The Nation magazine, formerly an executive producer for, senior editor for MSN and a Pulitzer finalist for her reporting

Yes, people will be more open to sharing personal information. Hopefully, people will be more careful about what they say and do in the Internet. It won't, however, prevent those who are irresponsible at every turn in their lives, from putting material on the Internet that is harmful. It's very difficult to take back something that has been virally spread across the net. Newspapers are able to print retractions where many readers can find them. However, a retraction on the Internet can be totally lost among the billions of kilobytes floating through the ether. –Mike Samson, interactive media writer and producer

The Internet may become the much hoped for “truth machine” and lie detector. Already we see users exposing malpractice and poor business service to others. Whilst we are unable to safeguard completely against the criminal element, poor service, lies and deceit, we will find that people will be able to vote with their pocket if a person/company deserves trust. Intolerance or perceptions of what is/isn't acceptable are already beginning to crumble as a more rigid “religious-based” lifestyle appears more extreme then one of individual choice and freedom. –Robert Eller, Concept Omega, a media marketing and communication company

We do not need to go forth a decade to anticipate a much more complex (Hyper-complex, as Qvortrup calls it) social environment. People will most certainly adopt more flexible identities and more public facets of those identities and that will not produce enhanced transparency; quite the opposite. Still, transparency in that particular sense is not a very desirable goal in itself—it rimes with conformity, and that runs against the pillars of knowledge appropriation and development. –Luis Santos, Universidade do Minho—Braga, Portugal

In the 20th Century, Warhol stated that, "In the future everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes." YouTube and social networking site have made this radical statement a reality. 2020, on the other hand, will usher in an era where privacy and anonymity are highly coveted. A 21st century spin on Warhol is, "in the future everyone will be anonymous for 15 minutes." –Ed Dieterle, Harvard Graduate School of Education; research tied to handheld devices for ubiquitous learning

The Net is reconfiguring our notions of public and private, as all communication technologies have done in the past. But the net has even greater impact. We will continue to put our private selves on public display—but I think we will grow increasingly less comfortable with that display being viewed by general audiences, and with data mining efforts to analyze our online behavior. As a result, we will want to exercise more control over who can see our keystrokes, watch our videos, be our Facebook friends. We will want more sophisticated privacy controls to maintain a balance between communication and exhibitionism. –Dennis Baron, professor of English and linguistics, University of Illinois, runs the Web of Language site and researches the technologies of communication

Facebook recently received a major backlash for its sharing of personal shopping. People simply must come to accept the fact that privacy is a myth. –Don Ranly, Ph.D., professor emeritus, University of Missouri School of Journalism 

The people who care about their reputation the most will still be subject to “swift boat” attacks. It will still be difficult to correct the record in 2020. –Brian T. Nakamoto, co-founder of MrJoy Inc. and product-line manager for, (a leading provider of outsourced e-mail solutions for individuals and companies around the world)

Transparency will grow in the coming years but I think the sheer barrage of personal information is ultimately what has caused any perceived “forgiveness.”  People will use the same tools to manage their identity—i.e. creating online profiles, sites, and posts that express the public version of themselves they wish to share—and will likely rely on that information outweighing any other information available online. –Jasmine Sante, Sante Strategies, independent Web strategy consultant in the Washington, D.C., area

Keep in mind that a scenario like this that develops a new sense of privacy is only the positive side. Almost certainly crime and fraud will be a big aspect of this new tolerance as people learn to manipulate the new freedoms. –Jennifer Jarratt, principal, Leading Futurists LLC; works with formalized methodologies to assess and interpret potential futures

David Brin (“Transparent Society”) was right.  More openness, forgiveness. But I suspect many micro-political problems will occur in silence—a job candidate turned down with a MySpace image a quiet reason, a relationship soured due to a discovered photo. And religious conservatives are prepared to accept a fallen world, which they can condemn; greater openness is something they've been coping with for a few hundred years. –Bryan Alexander, director of research National Institute for Technology and Liberal Education, blogger, expert on computer-mediated pedagogy, Ripton, Vermont

While I mostly agree with this scenario (much of this is already taking place today), it does imply a prevailing mode of "good-intentions" among future societies. This should be studied more carefully from behavioral point of view. Expecting future societies to be "more forgiving" is a bit too idealistic. I think that in parallel to such scenario, a one where "anonymization" technologies would be more ubiquitous should also be considered. –Fadi Salem, research associate, Dubai School of Government; research focuses on e-government and development in the Middle East and North Africa

A forerunner in this regard was Arnold Schwartzenegger when he ran for governor and people raised past indiscretions. He said, “Old news. Move on.” There is no doubt that our whole sense of privacy is changing radically. –Bruce Henry, Concordia University (Montreal)

In Brazilian society there is no paranoia, as seen in North America, about the “invasion of privacy.” I sometimes think that this easy-going tolerance of what in some other societies would be unthinkable, is essentially the result of centuries of middle and upper-class families having domestic servants who were totally privy to the on-going trials and tribulations of the family that owned the house. Perhaps the “compadresco” system of the extended family (god-parents, and "special relations" between persons), which sometimes included domestic servants having well-to-do godparents, and vice-versa, helped reduce any pretense of family secrets or skeletons in the closet. As a result, there is very little identity theft, or even seminars on privacy in the world of information technology in Brazil. I believe that this is a healthy view of personal information in a complex society, and probably will prevail over time. –Fredric M. Litto, consultant for Pearson Education Global e-Learning, president, Brazil Distance Learning Association

Identity theft will become rampant. Many will totally withdraw from technology as a result (the percentage of the total population withdrawing will increase). New laws will be enacted to protect privacy, but the rate at which those laws are broken will become epidemic. Still, privacy will continue to be valued, although increased transparency will also be accepted. –Dixon Hutchinson, software engineer

Whilst the trend is probably correct, the timing of 2020 is probably too early for the scenario described…As for people acting more responsibly due to their lives being under the spotlight‚ people will continue to make mistakes and, kids will be kids‚ I suspect. But if people are more understanding of others indiscretions then you may also get more people to acknowledge their mistakes ‚ and that would be a positive thing. –Heath Gibson, manager of research and market analysis, Big Pond, a competitive intelligence company and provider of broadband customer Web sites in Australia

I think people will have a heightened awareness of the openness that digital identity enables, but there will also be more people interested in controlling information about themselves, and more regulation to enable such control, so that it will really be a choice and not the default to live your life as an open book. –Paul Hyland, executive producer,; formerly a member of the board of directors for Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility and director at Media Matters for America