It's not just cybersecurity issues that are causing experts to be concerned about the future of the Net. Pew Research recently canvassed more than 1,400 experts to take the pulse of the probable future of the Web. Although the respondents were optimistic about the coming years as a whole, they identified a number of threats that could erode the quality and dependability of information found on the Internet.
4 threats to Web freedom
According to the Pew report, the majority of participants were hopeful that there will not be significant changes or obstacles to the way people access online information by 2025. Nonetheless, they indicated several Internet threats that could have a negative impact on the Web over the next decade:
- Nation-state initiatives to oversee security and maintain political control, leading to "more blocking, filtering, segmentation, and balkanization of the Internet"—which could mean less free movement of information across international boundaries.
- Revelations about governmental and corporate surveillance may erode trust in online activities.
- Commercialization may obstruct the open nature of the Web, causing shifts in Internet architecture.
- Reactions to content saturation, such as analytics and algorithm-based filtering solutions, may "overcompensate and actually thwart content sharing."
These trends could be pushed along as governmental agencies and other organizations decide how to respond to leaks about activities such as NSA surveillance, as well as rising cyberthreats and digital espionage.
"Because of governance issues (and the international implications of the NSA reveals), data sharing will get geographically fragmented in challenging ways," Danah Boyd, a research scientist for Microsoft, commented in the survey. "The next few years are going to be about control."
Regional differences, global problems
Countries such as China and North Korea have long had restrictive Internet policies, with firewalls and other measures implemented to control the flow of information and the types of sites people can access. Lately, Russia has also been moving in this direction, with legislation addressing topics such as where Russian citizens' personal data can be stored and how online journalists and bloggers must make their contact information available.
Although measures like these threaten to restrict global Internet freedom, creating enclaves of distinct online communities and barriers of worldwide information exchange, there are also dangers that transcend national boundaries. Cybercrime syndicates have emerged as international forces capable of working across seas and orchestrating both state-sponsored and privately motivated attacks.