As the world goes increasingly digital, how does it impact our trust in the internet? A lot, according to a Pew survey which looks at the fate of online trust in the next decade. As we become increasingly comfortable with sharing our personal details online, how can we be sure that this information will not be misused? Despite horror stories about bank accounts being wiped out through phishing and other online scams, hijacking of mail and other accounts for ransom and even identity theft, most surveyed believed that lack of trust will not deter increased public reliance on the internet. Others asserted that technical and regulatory changes will address concerns about security and privacy. “People are inured to risk, addicted to convenience and will not be offered alternatives to online interaction. Some expect the very nature of trust will change,” it says.
The question posed by the survey was: Will people’s trust in their online interactions, their work, shopping, pursuit of knowledge and other activities be strengthened or diminished over the next 10 years? Of the 1,233 people who responded, 48 per cent believed trust will be strengthened while 24 per cent predicted that it will be diminished.
“Trust will be strengthened, but it will be blind trust enforced by the ceaseless demands of The System, hell-bent to drive everyone online,” the survey quotes a start-up founder as saying. “Trust is dead now. Thus, it will stay the same: dead,” said another. “Trust is rapidly leaking out of the internet environment. Unless we strengthen the ability of content and service suppliers to protect users, trust will continue to erode. Strong authentication to counter hijacking of accounts is vital,”warns Vinton Cerf, vice president and chief internet evangelist at Google. As the internet rapidly permeates almost every aspect of our lives, we should keep in mind an old Russian proverb made famous by former US President Ronald Reagan: Trust, but verify.