Canvassing Internet experts turns up fears about what the future holds

It isn’t easy to look ahead — hindsight is always 20-20 goes an accurate saying.

So when a group of Internet experts were asked recently by the Pew Research Center for the Future of the Internet project a majority (65 per cent) of the 1,400 people who responded to a question on whether accessing content will be worse by 2025 said “no.”

But in a column on what it calls a canvass of experts the organization found a lot of equivocation. Some said it was more their hope than a prediction that things aren’t going to get worse. Others wished they could have voted yes and no.

It’s the expansion of their answers on what governments might do to the Internet that caught my eye and are worth considering.

“The experts in this survey noted a broad global trend toward regulation of the Internet by regimes that have faced protests and stepped up surveillance of Internet users,” the column notes. “They pointed out that nations such as Egypt, Pakistan, and Turkey have blocked Internet access to control information flows when they perceived content as a threat to the current regime. China is known for its “Great Firewall,” seen as Internet censorship by most outsiders, including those in this canvassing.”

And, of course, many pointed out the U.S. National Security Agency’s surveillance of email and phone call records revealed by Edward Snowden.

On the other hand,  Jim Hendler, a professor of computer Science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and architect of the Web, wrote, “If anything, it is privacy that will have to give way to openness, not the other way around… Repressive governments will be working hard to stop the spread of information. As today, there will be both good and bad news continually in that area, but over time more integration, access, and sharing will be a driving force.”

There were other trends gleaned from the answers, including fears trust will evaporate on the Internet because of increased government and corporate surveillance.

It’s a lengthy and thought-provoking piece that has no obvious answer to many of the questions it raises. That makes it a good read.

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