Elon University

The 2006 Survey: Scenario Four – Transparency builds a better world at the expense of privacy (Anonymous Responses)

Responses in reaction to the following provocative future scenario were assembled from a select group of internet stakeholders in the 2006 Pew Internet & American Life/Elon University Predictions Survey. The survey allowed respondents to select from the choices “agree” or “disagree” or to leave the scenario unanswered. Respondents were encouraged to provide a written elaboration to explain their answers; they did not always do so, but those who did provided richly detailed predictive material. 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 shared 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’, universities’, or government agencies’ policies or positions. Some answers have been edited to share more respondents’ replies. This is a selection of the many carefully considered responses to the following scenario.

internet artAs sensing, storage, and communication technologies get cheaper and better, individuals’ public and private lives will become increasingly “transparent” globally. Everything will be more visible to everyone, with good and bad results. Looking at the big picture – at all of the lives affected on the planet in every way possible – this will make the world a better place by the year 2020. The benefits will outweigh the costs.

Compiled reactions from the 742 respondents:
46% agreed
49% disagreed
5% did not respond

Below are select responses from anonymous survey participants. To read reactions from participants who took credit for their comments, please click here.

Privacy will be a commodity hoarded by those who can afford it.Losing one’s privacy and security is never a benefit.

The benefits don’t outweigh the costs.

I just know I wouldn’t want to be in that world.

The need – and right – for privacy will assert itself in the face of government and corporate efforts to use personal data widely. There is room for an effective detente between transparency and privacy, but it will take political will, wisdom and some economic incentives to make it happen.

The way things are perverted in 2006, I believe the opposite. Distortion will hold an unfortunately negative place in communication and lives will be negatively affected due to a culture that continues to move farther and farther away from God.

Personal privacy seems expendable. It will only be valued when it’s been lost by some people. By then, it will be too late.

The private sector will charge for every fact they learn, every genome they decrypt and find advantageous to extract profit from. The irritating rash that is identity theft in 2006 will reach plague proportions in a decade. Gated virtual communities will be offered to those who can bank, email, and surf the ‘Net within their restricted, protected, and costly confines.

We need to keep information more private and protected than we do now. It will not make the world a better place if we continue down this path of ease of use and transparency with regard to personal information.

Definitely. The government already knows everything about us; it’s just a question of time.

Transparency would build a better world if there would be an ethical use of the information, which is not always the case. Using terrorism as an excuse, lots of misuse is possible.

Transparency can build a better world, but governments and corporations and others that wish to hide “dirty” truths will continue to take effective steps to protect their secrets.

As technology develops people will learn how to keep private portions of their lives private. Much of the global learnings may even promote increased spirituality!

Review carefully the various privacy and personal-information-control laws being passed in various places around the world. If anything, the pace is accelerating towards stronger privacy and control, driven by misuse of individual personal information whether accidental or deliberate. I do not think people are convinced that benefits outweigh the costs and this will stall certain forms of data transparency. Legal challenges may control others.

Those who have something to hide and for whom exposure may threaten their revenues will invest a lot in their “security.”

Transparency rightly frightens many. However, I expect legal changes will be made to better help victims of identity theft and otherwise support online security.

I think it’s overstated, but true. Rich people will be able to shield their data, at a price. Poor people will exchange their privacy for services. They’ll be open books. Not sure if the benefits outweigh the costs

Privacy is still required by the majority – we don’t really want a “naked” society.

How can losing our privacy be a good thing? Unscrupulous types will take advantage of this.

It is hard to disagree with this, because it is inevitable.

While I do think that computers and other new technologies are working to facilitate rather than hinder communication, I don’t think that real transparency is the result: we have instead the illusion that everything’s out there, when the reality is that probably more and more is being hidden away.

I cannot fathom how it will “make the world a better place.”

I do believe that transparency will produce better, more socialistic lifestyles for everyone. However, I don’t believe this will happen.

There is no more privacy. We need to let go of the concept.

The intrusion on our daily lives in this country and eventually internationally is at best frightening. The means does not justify the ends.

This is historically obvious.

This is still up in the air – privacy, identity theft, job loss, inflexibility, terrorism, and other threats may create as much negative effect as positive.

The reversal on this feature has begun and the pendulum is swinging back. Example: why was “push” a flop, and RSS a success? One could argue they are the same thing, but that’s a shallow view. The primary difference is that RSS givers users more interactive control, AND privacy. The way push was initially conceived, it was all to benefit the pushers. The users have won out.

There is a definite struggle going on between the increased ease with which consumers can identify alternative suppliers (a much more fluid market) with value transferred to consumers but at the same time the data available to companies and the sophistication of the tools to use it (plus the winner takes all network effects) mean that there are potential downsides.

Transparency is essential to progress. In my experience, keeping technology secret hinders improvements and, more importantly, inhibits our ability to predict potentially disastrous consequences.

Off-line systems will become the norm for key info – it will seem like a step back but will be a side-step.

If you watch teenagers and their style of computing (despite e repeated warnings and suspicion of their parents) you see a future generation that questions our need for privacy. They are growing up street-wise and don’t hide from information. Their in-your-face computing is a more direct way to handle any fears than hiding behind encryption and passwords. There are lessons to be learned here if we adapt.

Our world will need to deal with the excessive competitive pressures this puts on individuals. We see this issue already with the increased awareness and pressures involved in the measurement of children’s academic and personal growth. We will need to learn what remains personal and non-comparative.

Already we see that information is becoming more sensitive and more sought after. Everything is becoming more and more visible – at the expense of privacy. Even legislation will not eliminate the immense growth in the value of information.

I think things will be more transparent. They already are far more so than I’d like. But I don’t think this is a good thing. The potential costs are huge.

Privacy evaporated in the ’60s, and was gone by the ’80s. People just didn’t realize it. The focus on privacy that has occurred as a result of the Internet will actually cause information to become more private, thanks to higher awareness and better authorization and access technology.

Technology advances have slowly eaten away at privacy since the beginning of time, and the increasing use of the Internet to showcase a person’s life only continues that trend. Witness the social networking, blogging and the trend of “putting everything out there for the world to see” that today’s younger generation embraces. I don’t see that changing by 2020, in fact more information is likely to be on display, but only by those people who either don’t care about their privacy, or don’t know any better. I’m not sure whether this will make the world a better place or not, as any advances in new technologies that have a “benefit” also have a “risk,” in that people are always out there to try and exploit that for their own uses.

Transparency will continue, though there will be a major backlash if ubiquitous technology is thought to threaten personal safety (witness the current backlash against teens using MySpace and other personal websites).

If access to technology is ubiquitous, then it could have an amazing impact on social movements and change. I also think that anti-technology sects will also be a natural reaction to this transparency – much like the modern Mennonites. Some will yearn for simpler, more private lives.

As information is communicated the question remains about its accuracy, relevance, and use.

In general, I agree, but I do think that people will have some control over their privacy, albeit with some effort. The benefits, however, will probably go to commercial organizations while the costs will be spread among everyone. How worthwhile people will perceive this to be will vary dramatically.

From outside the US, this looks both scary and unlikely. Data Protection is too institutionalised in the EU, at least for this to look probable this side of the Atlantic.

People will choose what level of privacy they will trade off for convenience.

I am nervous about the future.

Let’s believe that the human being is, by nature, good.

I agree that there will be a loss of privacy. I do not agree that this will make the world a better place. The benefits will not outweigh the costs, since one cost will be personal freedoms

We’re already here. And yes, the benefits outweigh the costs.

This trend will facilitate friendliness and relationships based on individual preferences.

The more we know about other people, the more irrational fears we are developing, and the government beast is feeding these fears. Familiarity does breed contempt. It would be great if we could all learn from, and respect, everyone else’s differences, but that doesn’t seem to be the way that human nature works. We are just too lazy to care, and we feel threatened by everyone else.

While police and security forces will probably welcome this transparency, it can easily become a costly “enhancement” of our society. Our own history has shown us numerous instances of technology used in inappropriate instances. When medical records and purchasing information are available, what privacy does the individual have a right to expect? Does an employer have the right to expect to garner medical information concerning a staff member’s medical condition if that medical condition is not adversely affecting their performance? Should an individual’s purchasing of certain books or records be available to other commercial establishments or family members or their employers?

2020 is far off and putting into practice user protection of privacy is a tedious task against marketing specialists. Much more difficult than protection against terrorists or viruses. The benefit will come but with more hardships for both developers and users

Nothing good can happen out of “selling” one’s privacy.

There are many pitfalls to transparency. It is desirable in government but not in personal lives.

While I may not disagree with the premise that 2020 will bring new intrusions, I cannot agree that we will be the better for it.

Everybody has something to hide. Or something they like to hide. So no.

Transparency will fail to extend to government; prevent a true “big picture” view and the possible better world it could produce.

I would agree if transparency applied equally to governments, but this appears highly improbable

Don’t believe people will allow it to get to that point unless “terror” politics continue (both terrorist and politicians)

Loss of privacy yes – better world not necessarily so.

It is impossible to weigh the cost benefit situation from 2006. As long as there is an active and free press and regular elections in the important countries of the world, we may be okay for a while.

Transparency will be applied selectively – by governments, businesses such as banks, and the healthcare sector – to individuals. Transparency of organizations and political bodies in the sense described here will never happen as long as those in power want to stay in power.

The more transparent, the easier to see problems as they are occurring and thereby stop them early, in their tracks.

I strongly agree. However there must be an imbalance in the system, a bias in favour of protection of individual privacy and against government/market privacy. As it stands now the trend is the other way. Governments know more and more about us at the same time as our possibilities to gain access to information that should be in the public domain diminishes.

The world is going down fast, with the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. Technology may help, but the self-serving nature of Americans will work against the world being a better place.

Not in the United States; the public values of individuality, freedom and privacy are too strong.

Transparency of individuals will not result in a better world, but transparency of corporations and government will. That benefit will outweigh the cost of a loss of some privacy of the individual.

Generally, I agree with this. We’ve already given up some privacy by using things like credit cards and EasyPass transponders. The information is out there, and a person’s life and recent activities could be reconstructed relatively easily. The benefits will likely outweigh what we have to give up to achieve them. But there will also probably be a growth industry (more likely starting by 2010, not 2020) providing “privacy protection services.”

Increased transparency is better for the whole but more costly for the individual – interesting trade off.

Unless there is a mindset change, no one will welcome nor appreciate intrusion of privacy especially in their personal lives. There will be benefits to consumers if businesses become more transparent

I think it is better to have an open society with the free flow of ideas and information. But I still think people need privacy to ensure that we stay human. Everyone doesn’t need to know everything about everyone.

I cannot agree that ceding privacy for transparency can or will be beneficial. One has only to look at past and present repressive societies to see how damaging and costly invasion of privacy has been. Privacy is a basic human right for good reason.

I don’t believe losing my privacy makes the world a better place.

Transparency and privacy are both myths and ideals. Since neither can ever be truly achieved, the tension between them will continue.

It will take concerted efforts to make sure the benefits continue to outweigh the costs. When the balance shifts, problems will begin.

The mass will move to an enlightened POV (point of view).

Transparency of corporate and government entities will be good, and citizens will need to work hard to protect and manage personal privacy.

People’s happiness is something very vague.

A more personalized world can be more comfortable, but maybe less interesting. If it will be good or bad will depends on political state of the world in 2020 too.

Transparency online is like looking at a person just on paper – there’s a lot of missing pieces; the internet can only go so far.

Not sure the benefits will outweigh the costs. By 2020 people will probably be required to have automated everything, and perhaps a chip of some sort which would make personal information more transparent. I don’t see this as a positive thing.

Yep, big-time. We’ve already started sliding down this slippery slope, with Google, Microsoft and our government. There will be enormous amounts of data collected, archived, analyzed and used to predict behavior of all of us. The danger comes when the data becomes personal and individual tracking you specifically vs. an aggregate and if all these sources of info about you are linked to a profile/identity. It’s a bit scary, and we don’t have laws to govern it yet, and people don’t seem to be much interested in finding out about what’s happening or how to protect themselves.

There will always be ways to be “off the grid.”

A general rise in the living standard for the world is expected.

An open environment ultimately will mean more democracy and transparency – a good thing.

Privacy will become a major issue, and people will pay to insure the privacy of their information. Privacy is the one issue that could be the undoing of the Internet.

I totally support transparency regarding business relations but where does it end? We should start a discussion in this country to understand the impact of a ‘public life’ on the Internet. All people have the right to live a private life, and they should be able to choose on their own how public they want to live. This should not be enforced by laws, etc. I can accept that there might be security issues that come first sometimes, though.

We won’t see complete transparency. The internet will continue to facilitate the spread of hostile, violent groups that operate “below the radar” because of the sheer magnitude of activity on the web.

We certainly need transparency with respect to the governments that rule us, so that seems good. it may also alleviate some of the problems with human trafficking too.

There will be an anonymity backlash online, and people will endorse a surveillance society with the idea that so long as everyone’s activities are accessible, nobody’s being violated.

This is a tough one. I think that transparency is key to democracy. But, privacy and anonymity are key when citizens are concerned about the powers of governments or large, powerful companies.

The definition of privacy will change, becoming polarized at the high and low ends of society. Privacy will become a selling point, a commodity, for real estate, travel, and other functions.

I still see a very unequal access. While I’m uncertain that the advantages of personal communications “transparency” would truly outweigh the hazards, I’m not sure that it will be ever be global. People without sufficient means may be pushed further outside the “global” economy than they already are.

If we vote for transparency we can retain the controls necessary to avoid self-destruction. The downside is that so much value (which, heretofore, has always required the ability of some to pull the wool over the eyes of others) will be lost, or exposed. The thing that marketers will have to recognize is that no one stops to read the gas mileage on their new car now anyway – why should we be intimidated by a time when every aspect of a product or service is published for consumer appreciation? Unfortunately, a majority of the people want to be told what to do and what to buy.

There are too many variables and the results of these surveys will unfortunately move the stock market and hit the newspapers where hegemony reigns. It will be better but I’m not sure the benefits will outweigh the costs. It is too complicated to predict.

In general I agree, though I think we can still have a balance and retain some privacy. Privacy and technology are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

We have a challenge to find the line between helpful transparency and intrusion.

The benefit will not replace the costs when that which was once public – respect of one another’s privacy – has become privatised and controlled by profit-motive.

Agreed that public and private selves will be increasingly transparent, but disagree that the benefits will outweigh the cost. US residents have an unrealistically heightened sense of entitlement to privacy – and this will be offended by the increasing transparency. The benefits (and there will be some) will reduce this to a degree. However, the problems of identity theft will continue to be a problem – as will a new threat, newly created identities.

I don’t believe that “visibility” and ‘transparency” is automatic. Commentators already speak of “googlearchy” i.e. multi-nationals occupying pivotal power. The medium may change (i.e. internet), but the message may also remain the same – the concentration of power and influence in the hands of the few.

As a society we are better off. Knowledge trumps ignorance. The more we know, the better we can cope with the problems we face. If someone with bad intent seeks to invade my privacy, then I want the power of transparency to shed light on that, too. One interesting consequence of the “data everywhere” phenomenon is that many more criminals are being convicted with evidence culled from their own computers and their data trail across the network.

This is a worthy vision of the future that hopefully will be realized over the objections of governments trying to control information and communications to hide something.

The truth is what world communities want – truth and transparency from their politicians, clergy, and corporations. This will eventually force transparency

We’ll probably have a more transparent world, but I’m not sure that’s a good thing. There are things I don’t really want to know about some (many!) people.

The vision of such an information-dominated future is appealing, the reality is that we’re not quite that rational. Nor will the technology be marshaled toward the “common good.” Too much emphasis on short-term profit making will creating political, cultural, and market place dampers on full-scale digital living.

There will be new pockets of freedom, but they will be available mostly to the existing privileged classes. This 2020 might turn out better for some, worse for the others.

I am sad to see my unlisted telephone number splashed on the Internet. As a single mother I wanted anonymity and privacy – but I was not allowed to have this. I felt a little frightened to know that my name, address & phone was published and I was alone.

Transparency is inevitable. I don’t agree that this will make the world a better place. New crimes will develop and there will be greater infringement on rights and freedoms. I think that in 2020 in hindsight that we will find that the benefits do not outweigh the costs.

Social conventions must be established to retain the balance

Transparency = accountability

The value of sensing, storage, and communication technologies is not proved by becoming “cheaper” and “better” (I read this to mean more efficient, faster, more precise, etc.). Higher visibility of some things does not in itself lead to better quality of life. People lead lives from a personal experience perspective, therefore “all of the lives affected on the planet in every way possible” is a poor measure of “the” big picture. People differ in their hopes for the future of humanity, and there is no consensus on this benefit. In some ways, life would improve if communication technologies ceased becoming cheaper and better and, instead, people were more inclined to sense room for improvement in the quality of what passes through those communication channels. The facility of technology does not alone deliver a higher quality of life.

I agree with the first part – that our private lives will be more transparent. I’m not sure what this lack of privacy will lead to – I think we are headed for a Big Brother scenario – albeit not one as dark as most science fiction would have you believe. I think as long as there is not overt effort to control using this information (as opposed to influence) that we just accept the gradual transition.

There will assuredly be benefits from transparency, but individuals must retain some control over their own privacy. Big Brother will be resisted.

No one will absolutely give up privacy. Perceived anonymity is what encourages people to play on the net. Loss of anonymity will result in loss of play.

The detriments will FAR outweigh the benefits.

Transparency frightens me. I think we need to have mechanisms in place to protect privacy and individuals. Transparency, while it has its benefits, can also be misused in the wrong hands, thereby creating havoc on the lives of many if tight controls, systems, and protections are not put in place to guard against this danger.

Our public/private lives may get more transparent, but results will be better for the resource-rich and worse for the resource-poor.

Privacy will be come more important than ever before.

I expect that people will attempt to retain (or gain) control over personal information, despite or even in response to technological efforts (or capacities) to increase transparency.

The consequences of increased visibility are not enough understood yet and deserve more research. Greater visibility not necessarily leads to more democratisation, and even if so can lead to increased pressure on individuals to comply to standards.

With the caveat that transparency shouldn’t replace a moral code, but will help insure that we follow on one. It’s going to be harder to do the back room deal

I agree with all except the last line: The benefits will not outweigh the costs.

It will be easier to be known, make purchases, verify identity, seamlessly work between systems, etc. But, privacy will – and already is – compromised

I agree in the public areas of the net. In the private networks of governments and corporations, we will have neither privacy nor transparency.

This is one that I would say I neither agree nor disagree …Too much depends on the people who have access to the information and the uses they make of it.

I think the bennies will outweigh.

These technologies could build a better world, but our world will not be better if conveniences come at the expense of privacy or if control of the internet is too highly concentrated in the hands of a few large corporations. If the future of the internet is shaped by democratic means, the future will be bright. If the future is shaped by commercial interests, where things like privacy, choice, and “net neutrality” are externalities, then we’re in trouble.

I disagree with the benefits outweighing the costs, but not the transparency assertion. I expect the adverse effects to disproportionately affect those who seek to lead. I expect candidates for leaders to become homogenous and bland because they must avoid leaving any trail of “misbehavior” that must be explained.

Transparency by itself will not make the world better. There are levels of transparencies. The full-range technological aspects of possibilities are not known.

This is a characteristic of totalitarian systems (Stalinism, China, Nazi-Germany).

The Panopticon Theory, huh?

Tools of supposed transparency become tools of control.

I am on the fence on this one… transparency creates a ton of information which creates information overload which can create paralysis. Technology can and should be an enabler for people; how do we determine how far is too far?

Privacy issues must be addressed to counter the “big brother is watching” feelings generated by an increasingly transparent globe.

The problem with this view is the differentiation of data that can/should be transparent and data that should not. Complete transparency is not a solution to solving issues relating to balancing personal privacy with public use.

This is basically the question of panopticism. Is the self-censoring that comes of believing every action and statement is being monitored worth the “good behavior” it creates? See what happens in communist Cuba or North Korea for the answer.

Transparency, in my view, is only weakly related to the quality in this respect.

Who wrote this questionnaire? There are two questions in here that should be separated: Will it happen? Will it be good?

Better world does not necessarily require a loss of privacy. It is possible to have the former without the latter, although achieving that will require considerable diligence, that I’m not sure society as a whole has.

Public and private spheres need to be kept that way. If all the information in the world was available to everyone, we would have people, corporations and governments that would take advantage of this.

Security is huge. I believe that this will be on a country-by-country basis. Consumers are currently pretty innocent about information security. I believe that, as knowledge about security grows, that we will fight to protect this as we fight to protect freedom of speech.

The world a better place for whom …who benefits?

Transparency is a human-controlled activity and does not necessarily lead to a “better world.” There will certainly be more information available – but that does not necessary add up to “transparency.”

The pattern of privacy will be reconfigured, but most of life will still (thankfully) be invisible.

While the benefits are obvious, this projected outcome may stifle creativity, wrap things in increasingly obtuse red tape, and drive “undesirable” elements further underground.

Yes, the “Big Brother” phenomenon from Orwell’s “1984” has always seemed a scary picture of what our future could bring. I do agree that with the transparency of information, there will be good and bad results. I do hope that the benefits will outweigh the costs.

Although I do agree that individuals’ lives will be increasingly transparent, I do not believe this will “make the world a better place.” Personal freedoms, especially when it concerns dissenting ideas will become more limited in this scenario as the sensing and storage technologies can be used to exert greater control.

I don’t know what the “good” part of this is.

I am happy to see national and world political processes become more transparent but find the idea of individual lives being transparent to total strangers in other parts of the globe rather frightening.

Transparency, following David Lyon and Mark Poster’s ideas, has deeply worrying implications, especially given government’s anti-terror measures.

As long as all nations in this world has adopt the similar protocol among nations.

I’m not sure that the benefits will outweigh the costs. There’s too much potential for abuse, and it’s unclear at this point that these technologies are making people’s lives “better.”

I disagree that everything will be transparent and disagree even more that this will make for a better world. What have you been smoking?

I find it impossible to decide on this one. Given my age (60), I certainly was raised to prefer the values of privacy over those of visibility, but new generations may either adapt or revolt against increasing visibility and their value systems will develop differently.

Wow, the “benefits outweigh the costs” is quite a bold statement. I do believe we’ll have more transparency, but I bet that new tools to mask things will develop as well. And “benefits v costs” will be determined on an individual basis, not society wide.

George Bush’s White House manages to keep lots of things secret, even illegally, and delete email. Transparency, pah!

Transparency is not a goal in itself. For some processes one might not want to have transparency, for other interest group will secure their information against transparency. Some information might become as already now more easier retrievable, but not in all areas.

Everything will not be available to everyone; everyone will not use the Internet; there will be possibilities for privacy and for not disclosing personal information for public access.

Transparency will continue to increase with mixed results. Sheer amounts of data will lead to the need to incorporate more and more anonymous and mechanized data mining which will have significant and negative effects. Our human capacity to make sense of the data will help mediate some of these effects, but will also increase their impacts in certain cases

I am very concerned about this trend and I disagree that the benefits outweigh the costs (which is why I answered “disagree”). Increasing data collection (and socially unacceptable uses) is likely to chill behavior and cause a huge change in society that is not a benefit.

The bad results will be featured in the news, and we won’t even see the worst of it by 2020.

Privacy issues will become the most important concern – encryption and access control will have to become default and accessible in order to balance usefulness of networked communications without giving up freedom and human rights

The whole idea behind modern bureaucracy is to create even standards and thereby transparency. Does it work? You might be able to track a certain person through the details of life, but the so-called transparency will drown in the noise.

Governments and companies will continue to undermine the transparency potential.

We will lose privacy, and this will be overall a bad thing.

Most of the time honest people have little to hide.

Unfortunately I’m afraid the “haves” are going to be able to spy on the “have-nots.” The “haves” will be the ones in governments and large orgs. The rest of us will be denied the power to spy on each other, or on the big guys.

This is already the case, and will continue to be so, through 2020.

Human beings can construct a better society by showing a crystal view of themselves, showing ‘transparency’ of their own attitudes and ideals on the web sphere, will contribute to gain a deep understanding of each other, therefore there is nothing to lose, something to gain.

We never really had privacy anyway. It was a social construct that served a very specific cultural engineering purpose for a few hundred years. If human beings are collective or tribal at base, then privacy seems moot.

All I can say is I have a general feeling of optimism about the effects of technology.

The “better Place” will be a matter of individual perspective … possibly yes but equally possible that it will adversely impact individual freedoms and privacy to the extent that it does more harm than good.

Everything will not be more visible to everyone. Any notion that access to the kinds of information that surveillance technologies produce will be equitably distributed are dubious at best.

Notions of first world “privacy” are maintained and “protected” at too high a cost to the rest of the world, in relation to such matters as corporate accountability, conflicts of interest etc. I like privacy, but on balance, would sacrifice some of it to achieve a fairer and more equitable society

Though more information will be available online, information will still stay private. Those in developing countries will have less of an ability to stay private

I can easily see that the transparency will come about, some by choice, some by dictate.

I am very skeptical that benefits will outweigh costs. We will need to be vigilant and protect privacy.

This is the worst kind of Orwellian logic.

Orwellian society is not better.

Society will revisit the issue of privacy in the coming years and develop new standards regarding what is appropriate and what is not. At the same time, information very much wants to be free and greater transparency in the public spheres of government, commerce, etc. is essential and will be easier to achieve through emerging technologies.

There are some benefits to a “transparent” society, but there are some definite drawbacks that make me think that the benefits will not outweigh the costs. The social impacts of transparency must be considered. Easy access to private information raises some serious concerns about how that information will be used – true, it may seem easy to get lost in the cracks, but data mining technologies are making it simple to extract relevant information from gigabytes of data. The potential for abuse is quite high. Consider the case of Chinese journalist Shi Tao, who was sentenced to ten years in jail for “leaking state secrets.” His crime was sending notes regarding the government’s instructions on handling media coverage of the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests to a US-based web site. Web portal company Yahoo! played a key role in Shi’s conviction by revealing that he was the owner of the email account used to send the message. Dissidents like Shi and other anonymous informants (corporate whistleblowers, for example) depend on their anonymity to protect them from the consequences of disseminating sensitive information. Similarly, although less grievous, cases of people being fired (or not being hired at all) based on the content of their personal blogs have been in the news quite often in the past few years. As more and more information becomes searchable online, it seems likely that incidences of these sort of sanctions will only become more prevalent. Once something is posted on the internet, it is likely to remain there indefinitely.

There is no hiding from the past. One poor judgment call can follow you for the rest of your life.

Transparency would help to solve some problems of today. However, when we lost our privacy, we are living in an insecure world and the psychological impact may be more serious.

What you write here will happen anyway. It is not a “position” in a debate.

The privacy genie is out of the bottle. People want privacy for themselves while demanding transparency for the organisations they work with.

Yes, this is already happening.

The direction is benefit-driven, so benefit will be there and always outweigh costs. This is just too easy to predict.

The transparency will penetrate on everything both private life and public life. However, more transparency gives less possibility for corruption.

I don’t fear that a program knows what I’m saying in private conversations. Thinking that human beings are actually spending time studying my private life is either paranoia or hubris.

I believe strongly that the increased cultural exchange made possible by global telecomm infrastructure will lessen the chance that we destroy each other via explosive warfare. In that sense, the new global community that emerges is essential to preventing holocaust of many sorts. But, there are corresponding risks (well documented but perhaps not yet largely known to larger public) to privacy that, given the propensity of governments to abuse power over privacy for “good reason,” will demand that citizens use the new openness to maintain openness.

This has been in every scenario developed for the past 5 years already, and will continue to be there in new scenarios. And yes, I do believe this will happen. Connecting it to the previous statement: there will be a way to govern it and stop some of the outwashes.

Agree on the antecedent (transparency will occur), but not the consequence (it will make the world a better place). It will have some very strong benefits, and other very large costs. People will appreciate the benefits and be resigned to the costs.

International communications will significantly improve; feelings and sensitivities will not become more “visible.”

I believe we are currently overdoing the “privacy” part. We should distinguish between the need of confidentiality on one hand and privacy in general.

This will happen. The big question is, will it be better?

Transparency in public services does produce a better world. But not on the individual or private level so it will not necessarily make a better world. Ways to circumvent “big brother” will also improve in the form of more complex encryption methods etc. As far as the benefits outweighing the costs I disagree, a balance must be sort.

You should put “covert” transparency at the beginning of this statement – this is a question about elites. I am a big fan of BOTH transparency and privacy, but not as discussed here or in the direction things are currently going. Selective manipulation is a HUGE issue!

Although there will be downsides to being so exposed on the network, nefarious activities tend to take place in secret so transparency is necessary.

Those with money and political clout will continue to exploit differentials in access to private information. Citizens will have more exposure in the name of law enforcement (or “counterterrorism”) but not enjoy similar transparency of the governments. There will be a lot of people who are more uncomfortable with the technology pervading their lives, perhaps to the point of spawning a political anti-technology movement.

Somewhat, the level of impact is undetermined and “the world a better place” is a subjective term that can be interpreted very differently by different people.

Transparency for accountability of governments and other powerful institutions is good. For private citizens, who wish to remain private, coercing transparency is not good. That seems a more likely scenario.

There is a very strong privacy movement on the Internet, one that is backed by legal requirements in Europe as well as other countries. If anything, expectations of privacy are gathering steam.

While I agree that the prediction will come to pass, I disagree with the juxtaposition of transparency and privacy, as if this is a zero sum game and having more of one will automatically reduce the other.

Transparency presumes that the data being made transparent are verifiable, so that inferences made from them can be supported. While I believe that the trend to provide data online will continue, perhaps with some levelling-off, I strongly suspect we will not see increased verifiability in this time frame. The side effect of this lack of verifiability is that communities selectively credit particular data points and throw out data that does not match their existing world-view. More transparency does not help this.

First, there is no evidence that more control will end up in more transparency. Second, there is no link between such forced “transparency” and a better world. Third, the mighty ones will continue to escape any form transparency, dominate the media and manipulate public opinion.

Transparency refers only to public responsibilities and never should go beyond the legitimate limits of privacy law. International law enforcement agreement should guarantee individual privacy rights.

I’m not sure it will be a “better” world; I’m more sure that it will be a “different” world.

I believe that the benefits will outweigh the costs – but not in this time frame. I think we’ll still be wondering if we’re going to survive this transition at this time. It will take many more years for many cultures to accept and adapt to the pace of knowledge acquisition and cross-fertilization.

Only bad results come from making our private lives public – freedom exists only when one can remain anonymous and not surveilled.

Note that the US government is on a determined campaign to roll back 50 years of progress in transparency.

The definition of “benefits” and “costs” are in the eye of the beholder. There are intuitive limits on the benefits of “global transparency” of private data (e.g., financial information, time when residence is vacant, location of children). The availability of private information that can be globally accessed may create the need for legislated protection of “digital privacy.”

Technically there will be some solutions that will be available but that people may not use: PGP, onion router.

The good and the bad is there today. The technology will only accelerate what is done today.