August 10, 2017

The Fate of Online Trust in the Next Decade

Many experts say lack of trust will not be a barrier to increased public reliance on the internet. Those who are hopeful that trust will grow expect technical and regulatory change will combat users’ concerns about security and privacy. Those who have doubts about progress say 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.

(Jetta Productions/Getty Images)
(Jetta Productions/Getty Images)

Trust is a social, economic and political binding agent. A vast research literature on trust and “social capital” documents the connections between trust and personal happiness, trust and other measures of well-being, trust and collective problem solving, trust and economic development and trust and social cohesion. Trust is the lifeblood of friendship and caregiving. When trust is absent, all kinds of societal woes unfold – including violence, social chaos and paralyzing risk-aversion.

We didn’t focus on how you could wreck this system intentionally [when designing the internet].Vinton Cerf

Trust has not been having a good run in recent years, and there is considerable concern that people’s uses of the internet are a major contributor to the problem. For starters, the internet was not designed with security protections or trust problems in mind. As Vinton Cerf, one of the creators of internet protocols, put it: “We didn’t focus on how you could wreck this system intentionally.” (Cerf is a respondent to the question addressed in this report; his worried quote is featured here.)

Moreover, the rise of the internet and social media has enabled entirely new kinds of relationships and communities in which trust must be negotiated with others whom users do not see, with faraway enterprises, under circumstances that are not wholly familiar, in a world exploding with information of uncertain provenance used by actors employing ever-proliferating strategies to capture users’ attention. In addition, the internet serves as a conduit for the public’s privacy to be compromised through surveillance and cyberattacks and additional techniques for them to fall victim to scams and bad actors.

If that were not challenging enough, the emergence of trust-jarring digital interactions has also coincided with a sharp decline in trust for major institutions, such as government (and Congress and the presidency), the news media, public schools, the church and banks.

The question arises, then: What will happen to online trust in the coming decade? In summer 2016, Pew Research Center and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center conducted a large canvassing of technologists, scholars, practitioners, strategic thinkers and other leaders, asking them to react to this framing of the issue:

Billions of people use cellphones and the internet now and hundreds of millions more are expected to come online in the next decade. At the same time, more than half of those who use the internet and cellphones still do not use that connectivity for shopping, banking, other important transactions and key social interactions.  As more people move online globally, both opportunities and threats grow. Will people’s trust in their online interactions, their work, shopping, social connections, pursuit of knowledge and other activities be strengthened or diminished over the next 10 years?

Some 1,233 responded to this nonscientific canvassing: 48% chose the option that trust will be strengthened; 28% of these particular respondents believe that trust will stay the same; and 24% predicted that trust will be diminished. (See “About this canvassing of experts” for further details about the limits of this sample.)

Participants were asked to explain their answers and were offered the following prompt to consider: Which areas of life might experience the greatest impact? Economic activity? Health care? Education? Political and civic life? Cultural life? Will the impacts be mostly positive or negative? What role might the spread of blockchain systems play?

Many of these respondents made references to changes now being implemented or being considered to enhance the online trust environment. They mentioned the spread of encryption, better online identity-verification systems, tighter security standards in internet protocols, new laws and regulations, new techno-social systems like crowdsourcing and up-voting/down-voting or challenging online content.

One particular focus of participants’ answers involved blockchain technology, because our follow-up prompt specifically asked people to consider the role of blockchain in the future of trust on the internet. Blockchain is an encryption-protected digital ledger that is designed to facilitate transactions and interactions that are validated in a way that cannot be edited. Proponents have high hopes for the spread of blockchains. The Economist magazine has argued that blockchain “lets people who have no particular confidence in each other collaborate without having to go through a neutral central authority …. In essence it is a shared, trusted, public ledger that everyone can inspect, but which no one single user controls.” A more-complete outline of how blockchain operates and these survey respondents’ predictions about its future can be found in the discussion about Theme 4 later in this report.

The majority of participants in this canvassing wrote detailed elaborations explaining their positions. Some chose to have their names connected to their answers; others opted to respond anonymously. These findings do not represent all possible points of view, but they do reveal a wide range of striking observations. Respondents collectively articulated six major themes that are introduced and explained below and are expanded upon in sections that begin later in this report.

The following introductory section presents an overview of the themes found among the written responses, including a small selection of representative quotes supporting each point. Some comments are lightly edited for style or due to length.

Theme 1: Trust will strengthen because systems will improve and people will adapt to them and more broadly embrace them

About half the respondents to this canvassing believe that trust online will be strengthened in the next decade. Their reasoning generally flows in two streams: 1) Some expect to see improved technology emerge that will allow people to have confidence in the organizations and individuals with whom they interact online. They argue that improvements in identifying and authenticating users will build trust. They also maintain that the corporations depending on online activity have all the incentive they need to solve problems tied to trust. 2) Some say trust will grow stronger as users employ online activities more fully into their lives. They think this will be led by younger users who are fully immersed in online life.

We experience many reasons to distrust our interactions. … And yet, on a personal basis, as time goes by, we are more and more trusting.Stephen Downes

Adrian Hope-Bailie, standards officer at Ripple, replied, “The technology advancements that are happening today are beginning to bring together disparate but related fields such as finance, identity, health care, education and politics. It’s only a matter of time before some standards emerge that bind the ideas of identity and personal information with these verticals such that it becomes possible to share and exchange key information, as required, and with consent to facilitate much stronger trusted relationships between users and their service providers.”

Stephen Downes, researcher at National Research Council Canada, wrote, “We experience many reasons to distrust our interactions. And traditional media are reporting numerous cases where they should be distrusted, so we think rising distrust is the norm. And yet, on a personal basis, as time goes by, we are more and more trusting. People who did not even know people in other countries, much less trust them, now travel halfway around the world to participate in conferences, rent and live in their homes, meet on a date, participate in events and more. Sure, things like catfishing are problems. But the exception is a problem only in the light of the trust that is the rule (Wittgenstein: A rule is shown by its exceptions). People who did not trust online retail a decade ago now purchase games, music and media on a regular basis (they’re still a bit wary of deliveries from China, but they’re coming around to it). People who did not trust online banking a decade ago now find it a much more convenient and inexpensive way to pay their bills. They also like the idea that their credit cards are now protected. People who were sceptical of online learning a decade ago now live in an era when, in some programs, some online learning is required, and where there is no real distinction (and no way to distinguish) between an online or offline degree (and meanwhile, millions of people flood in to take MOOCs). We can see where this trend is heading by looking at a few edge cases. For example: What would we say of a pilot who never trained in a simulator? What would we say of a lawyer who did not rely on data search, indexing and retrieval services? We trust them more in the future because they are taking advantage of advanced technology to support their work.”

David Karger, professor of computer science at MIT, urges a “healthy distrust” and encourages the public be more vigilant in working to understand the risks and limitations of emerging technologies. “We’ve seen tremendous growth in use of these online tools,” he wrote, “so it is natural to assume it will continue. Your specific question of trust is a complicated one. On the one hand, I believe we are just at the beginning of development of good online tools and I expect significant improvement – even over the next 10 years – that will draw more users to these better tools. On the flip side, I at least hope that people will become generally more educated about the risks and limitations of online interactions, which may lead to a certain healthy distrust even as usage becomes more widespread.”

Subtheme: Improved technology plus regulatory and industry changes will help increase trust

Many technologists and futures thinkers among the respondents said they expect that constantly evolving improvements in the network of networks will maintain or boost trust; some also added that security cannot be completely perfected and staying ahead of the “darker forces” will require vigilance. Some suggested regulation. An anonymous respondent said, “Trust will be increased if governments put in place policies for consumer protection, data protection, etc.”

We need to get serious about creating a truly secure internet if it is to realize the potential for empowering a big portion of the world.Richard Adler

Mike Roberts, Internet Hall of Fame member and first president and CEO of ICANN, wrote, “The designers, developers and users of computer-based systems are still in a primitive era. From an S curve perspective, we are hardly at the steep lower-left end. The rise of an entrepreneurial culture among developers has accelerated the diffusion of these systems but there is far to go. Because of the tangible benefits in convenience, quality, quantity, etc., of using such systems, humans will develop advanced techniques for protection from criminal behavior on the ‘net,’ but such activity will persist online as it does offline. You don’t stop going to the grocery store because there was a carjacking incident last week, etc.”

Richard Adler, distinguished fellow at the Institute for the Future, observed, “Technologies such as biometrics, encryption, digital IDs, blockchain and smart contracts are emerging that can enhance security and build trust. But they are in a race with darker forces who continue to become more effective in breaching security measures. We need to get serious about creating a truly secure internet if it is to realize the potential for empowering a big portion of the world.”

Oscar Gandy, emeritus professor of communication at the University of Pennsylvania, commented, “Of course, as a privacy and surveillance scholar, my answer is more hopeful than analytical. I am hopeful that the public will become much more aware, and less ‘resigned’ to the fact that their transaction-generated information (TGI) is routinely used to shape their experience within economic, social and political markets/environments. These areas of impact are tightly interconnected, although some analytical assessments can determine differential influences for different population segments. I am most concerned about the nature and extent of surveillance and the strategic use of TGI in the public sphere, or in ‘political and civic life.’ Hopefully, the public will come to understand the myriad ways through which their TGI is used to shape the information environment in which they make important choices, including those we would identify as being political. What I have seen of late leads me to see the balance between benefits and harms in the political area to be largely negative, and worsening.”

Hume Winzar, associate professor in business at Macquarie University in Australia, wrote, “Governments and financial companies want their systems secure and transparent, so they will work hard to make them so. This will relieve people’s concerns. Also, many services will be simply unavailable except online, so people will have to trust them whether they’re skeptical or not.”

Subtheme: The younger generation and people whose lives rely on technology the most are the vanguard of those who most actively use it, and these groups will grow larger

Some respondents observed that familiarity breeds acceptance, thus those who are younger and have spent most of their lifetimes immersed in implementing online are those least likely to see trust issues as a reason to deny themselves the affordances of online life. One noted it will be “like the air we breathe.”

The internet will be so ubiquitous that it will be like the air we breathe: Bad some days, good others, but not something we consciously interrogate anymore.Sam Anderson

Glenn Ricart, Internet Hall of Fame member and founder and chief technology officer of U.S. Ignite, said, “Trust will be strengthened over the next decade because there is a strong generational shift to interacting online. The expectation of Millennials and others is that they can and should be able to trust online transactions. That expectation will provide fuel to efforts improving trust.”

David Durant, a business analyst for the UK Government Digital Service, wrote, “People who have grown up using mobile technology for social media, interaction with businesses and increasingly as a way to interact with government will see doing so as entirely normal and consider it the natural channel for a very significant proportion of all their life’s interactions.”

Sam Anderson, coordinator of instructional design at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, wrote, “The internet will be so ubiquitous that it will be like the air we breathe: Bad some days, good others, but not something we consciously interrogate anymore.”

Theme 2: The nature of trust will be more fluid as technology embeds itself into human and organizational relationships

One striking line of argument, particularly among some of the most prominent analysts responding to this canvassing, is that trust will become a more conditional and contextual attribute of users’ online behavior. They argue that trust is becoming “transactional” – an idea distinct from the notion that trust is a kind of property tied to an individual, group or organization. A number of respondents added that throughout human history the highest levels of trust are often found within personal networks, rather than via organizational actors.

Actually, trust will be both strengthened and diminished [in the coming decade], depending on context.danah boyd

Dan McGarry, media director at the Vanuatu Daily Post, wrote, “Trust will change in its nature. It will no longer be invested so much in systems and institutions as in individuals. Relationships will matter. On the negative side, much behaviour will be defined by allegiance, which will allow some actors to motivate significant numbers to act against their own interests at times. The human capacity to invest trust in others won’t change unless we undergo significant evolutionary change.”

Cory Doctorow, writer, computer science activist-in-residence at MIT Media Lab and co-owner of Boing Boing, responded, “The increased impoverishment/immiseration of larger and larger segments of society thanks to mounting wealth inequality will drive more reliance on informal networks, barter, sharing, etc., that will be enabled through online activity.”

Subtheme: Trust will be dependent upon immediate context and applied differently in different circumstances

While many institutions have gained the public’s trust over time, many are now being questioned. Some respondents say that individuals’ influence has gained more importance in this atmosphere, and trust is – now and in the coming decade – more likely to be applied differently to different circumstances. An anonymous respondent replied, “The change will be in the dynamism of trust, not the valence. We will place small amounts of trust in people and organizations and exit or voice more quickly when we sense it has been violated.”

danah boyd, founder of Data & Society, commented, “Actually, trust will be both strengthened and diminished [in the coming decade], depending on context. People will stop seeing it as ‘the internet’ and focus more on particular relationships. Increasingly, large swaths of the population in environments where tech is pervasive have no other model.”

Aaron Chia Yuan Hung, assistant professor at Adelphi University, replied, “People will change what they trust. Just as people used to prefer an oral agreement over a signature in the past, people grow to accept what they can or are willing to trust. People are also likely to believe what they want to believe because confirmation bias is inherently human nature. Farhad Manjoo’s ‘True Enough’ is a wonderful read on this topic. It does make critical thinking more difficult, and education must play a big role in making sure people look at people, facts, data, etc., with a more analytic lens.”

Subtheme: Trust is not binary or evenly distributed; there are different levels of it

Bob Frankston, internet pioneer and software innovator, commented, “The choices for the question are too limited. Trust is not binary. We need to have new forms of trust and Plan B’s for when trust fails. This is where algorithms can help – as with credit card companies seeing patterns – but it cuts both ways.”

Andrew Walls, managing vice president at Gartner, said, “Trust is not achieved merely through effective implementation of security processes and systems. Trust is a quality of a relationship between two entities. Trust is also both a conscious and unconscious attribute of a relationship. For example, many people state that they do not trust Facebook, yet the behavior of those same people demonstrates that they entrust Facebook with many details of their lives. It is possible to claim that these people do not understand the ‘trust’ ramifications and implications of their sharing behavior in social media, but that same claim can be made of every social interaction, online or otherwise. Rather than speak of trust as an absolute or binary situation (trusted or untrusted), trust must be viewed as a spectrum or continuum with multiple levels. For example, I might trust a bank with my money, but I do not trust them with the details of my social life, whereas, I won’t trust my cousin with my money but will trust him/her with details of my social life. Trust is a subtle, dynamic attribute of social relationships between entities.”

Theme 3: Trust will not grow, but technology usage will continue to rise, as a ‘new normal’ sets in

Are people “placing trust” in a technology when they use it or are they just willingly taking a chance in order to obtain or attain something they desire? A significant share of participants think it is the latter. They argued that the level of online activity by 2026 might make it appear as if the level of trust is fairly high, but the more appropriate way to interpret it will be that people are resigned to operating in an environment that does not allow them to be selective about whom they trust.

Trust will be strengthened, but it will be blind trust enforced by the ceaseless demands of The System, hell-bent to drive everyone online.Ebenezer Baldwin Bowles

Ebenezer Baldwin Bowles, founder of Corndancer.com, wrote, “Trust will be strengthened, but it will be blind trust enforced by the ceaseless demands of The System, hell-bent to drive everyone online. ‘Resistance is futile,’ the alien superpower said to the altruistic starship captain. Resistance to the interests of the corporate state will be futile if one wants to participate in the commonplace activities of household management and personal finances, or seek diagnosis and treatment from medical practitioners, or pass a bricks-and-mortar course in high school or university.”

David Sarokin, author of “Missed Information: Better Information for Building a Wealthier, More Sustainable Future,” wrote, “I’m not sure ‘trust’ is the right word here. It’s more a matter of attrition and familiarity. As more and more activities migrate online, and as ever larger numbers of people simply grow up with the internet, it seems inevitable that its use will expand, both in terms of overall numbers of people using it [and] the types and scopes of activities available.”

An anonymous research professor proclaimed, “Trust is dead now. Thus, it will stay the same: Dead.”

An anonymous respondent wrote, “The general public trust in these systems will grow … but the question of whether such trust will be deserved … remains to be seen. Call it trust by default, in the same way we are powerless to criticize a surgeon’s or airline pilot’s technical maneuvers.”

Subtheme: ‘The trust train has left the station’; sacrifices tied to trust are a ‘side effect of progress’

Some respondents argued that trust cannot be assumed to be an element of transactions, and many who used the word “trust” in saying they expect higher participation in online interaction may likely agree that their use of it was as a slightly inaccurate umbrella term used to match up with the language of the survey question and that it actually might signify they see a likely rise in people’s participation, trusting or not.

An anonymous chief marketing officer commented, “The trust train has left the station, continues to gain speed, and shows very little chance of slowing down. As mobile payment technology proliferates, from our phones to our watches to our Internet of Things devices, and as digital natives continue to grow in their share of the world’s economic power, concerns about trust in online interactions will seem antiquated and quaint. Breaches may continue and even proliferate, but the technologies will be so embedded in our lives that they will be considered a mere inconvenient side effect of progress.”

Brad Templeton, chair for computing at Singularity University, wrote, “Trust will be strengthened even though that may be an unjustified trust. Our systems are today extremely insecure and we trust them, and those who are not using them are not staying away because of [a lack of] trust. Also, I think billions more will come online, not hundreds of millions. Biggest impacts will be in economic activity and cultural life.”

Bart Knijnenburg, assistant professor in human-centered computing at Clemson University, responded, “Secure technologies will not do much to increase trust, because most people simply don’t understand them. They will just run in the background.”

Peter Levine, Lincoln Filene professor and associate dean for research at Tisch College of Civic Life, Tufts University, said, “I suspect that people will gain trust in electronic tools, per se, so that more people will be willing to bank, vote, shop, etc., online. But distrust in the underlying institutions continues to grow, and I am not particularly optimistic that it will change.”

Subtheme: People often become attached to convenience and inured to risk

Convenience is one of the most-recognized features of all new technologies, including the internet. A number of respondents made the case that it is the convenience of using popular internet applications that makes the internet most appealing and addictive. Further, they noted that it is convenience that creates the most challenges for internet users when it comes to trust. In making trust decisions, people weigh risk and reward and generally choose reward.

Give me convenience or give me death.Anonymous respondent

An anonymous respondent adapted a classic line from U.S. history, writing:
“Give me convenience or give me death.”

Tom Ryan, CEO of eLearn Institute Inc., replied, “‘Trust’ is neither the inhibitor nor driver for adoption of online interactions. Convenience will drive adoption. For example, motor vehicle deaths in the U.S. reached as high as 51,091 in 1980 and still remain over 30,000 deaths annually, yet the number of vehicles registered in the U.S. continues to grow. People accept the life-or-death consequences of driving for the convenience it provides. I recognize the threat that a hacker and some businesses may pose, through internet access, of my health and financial data, but the convenience and benefit I perceive keeps me online.”

An anonymous respondent noted, “People will distrust more and more and still accept the use of these systems more and more.”

An anonymous network architect at Vodafone noted, “For the reasons trust will be strengthened refer to Cory Doctorow’s ‘peak indifference’ essay.”

Louisa Heinrich, founder at Superhuman Limited, wrote, “I fear trust will be diminished (i.e., we will be certain we are being watched, that our communications and interactions are not secure) but we will use the technology anyway, either because we have no other choice or because it’s just too convenient.”

Subtheme: There will be no choice for users but to comply and hope for the best

Some respondents noted that there will be no alternative but to use online systems, whether they trust them or not – and many who use them will not necessarily do so because they “trust” them.

An anonymous respondent commented, “When compliance can be mechanically enforced at scale, trust is unnecessary.”

Randy Bush, research fellow at Internet Initiative Japan and Internet Hall of Fame member, wrote, “Given that there will be less and less alternatives to electronic paths to daily transactions, people will have no choice but to ‘trust’ them. But they will remain nervous, with justification.”

Naomi Baron, a linguistics professor at American University, replied, “To the extent that more and more people use the internet for these kinds of connectivity, logic suggests we conclude that trust in the system will be strengthened. However, I suspect that what in fact will be happening is that people will increasingly stop thinking about the trust issue, sensing they have no other option but the internet for conducting the business of daily life. Much as internet users today commonly believe they have no choice when it comes to giving up privacy, I predict users will feel the same way about trust.”

Tony Pichotta, creative director at Recess Creative, replied, “Online interactions will be strengthened because of the lack of alternatives. Systemic technologies will shape the masses, leaving the dissenters out in the wilderness.”

An anonymous researcher at the MIT Center for Civic Media said, “Trust is less relevant when there is no need to develop loyalty because there are no alternatives. We will use what we have available and mistrust it because there won’t be obvious incentives for service providers to work in our favor. Worldwide, people will increasingly use cellphones and the internet to do work, shop, engage socially and learn. People will use these services because they have no choice, as the services will not be available offline as it’s too expensive to maintain brick and mortar (something we are seeing in banking, retail and government services). And there will be few options because value is determined by the network effects leveraged by many companies.”

Theme 4: Some say blockchain could help; some expect its value might be limited

One of the most interesting developments online in the past decade has been the rise of blockchain systems, which were first created to enable the use of the digital currency bitcoin. Blockchain product designer Collin Thompson describes blockchain as “a type of distributed ledger or decentralized database that keeps records of digital transactions. Rather than having a central administrator like a traditional database – think banks, governments and accountants – a distributed ledger has a network of replicated databases, synchronized via the internet and visible to anyone within the network.” He elaborates on the blockchain process:

“When a digital transaction is carried out, it is grouped together in a cryptographically protected block with other transactions that have occurred in the last 10 minutes and sent out to the entire network …. The validated block of transactions is then timestamped and added to a chain in a linear, chronological order. New blocks of validated transactions are linked to older blocks, making a chain of blocks that show every transaction made in the history of that blockchain. The entire chain is continually updated so that every ledger in the network is the same, giving each member the ability to prove who owns what at any given time.”

Such a dependable ledger could conceivably be used for securing any kind of transaction, and that has prompted advocates to argue that it could replace the kinds of activities now performed by trusted – and expensive – intermediaries such as banks, firms that validate real estate transactions, accounting operations and legal services.

Of course, this might powerfully affect the overall level of trust in online interactions, thus we asked respondents to consider in their written elaborations the impact of blockchains on trust in the next decade. A number were quite positive, but some expressed reservations about how rapidly and effectively blockchains would be adopted.

Strengthened trust is my hope, not a prediction. It is the great promise of blockchain of course, in combination with a host of other privacy and trust technologies, that it will make trusted peer-to-peer transactions possible.Marcel Bullinga

Susan Price, digital architect at Continuum Analytics, said, “Blockchain technologies hold the most promise for making such a trust system possible. Much will depend on the first few popular examples. Although blockchains so far remain robustly secure, systems that interface with and leverage them are subject to the same security problems we’re familiar with (e.g., Ethereum’s DAO recursive hack). Let’s assume blockchain technologies and related will make such a trust system possible. Individuals could conduct secure trades with one another without the use of intermediaries, or with intermediaries operating at greatly reduced costs. More people worldwide could find sustaining outlets for their creativity and endeavors. The financial services industry will be revolutionized and reinvented. With little to no ‘float’ for exchanges of value, whole sectors such as clearinghouses will vanish. Citizens of countries where payments are most delayed today will enjoy faster settlement and thus their citizens enjoy less graft and corruption and benefit more directly from their productivity. Voting and civil rights will be completely transformed. It will be feasible for political structures to transcend geography. Though we’ll still need local law enforcement and security forces, we could choose to become ‘citizens’ of organizations with specific goals, agendas and benefits that align with our needs and beliefs regardless of our current location or residence. This could speed human rights advances and productivity even more. Health care and advances in medical technology and solutions would evolve more quickly and be available to more people. This utopian view assumes that the identity interface remains outside the direct control of any corporation or government. Distributed control over such a system is vital to prevent abuses (or to recover from power plays or attacks).”

Marcel Bullinga, trend watcher and keynote speaker, wrote, “Strengthened trust is my hope, not a prediction. It is the great promise of blockchain of course, in combination with a host of other privacy and trust technologies, that it will make trusted peer-to-peer transactions possible. This is not in the interest of current technology companies and powerful platforms like Google, Facebook and Uber, so it will be heavily battled. Yet, it would revolutionize our economy into a true, trusted DIY world.”

Lee McKnight, associate professor at Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies, replied, “Trust can only be strengthened when people and systems actually have a reason to trust each other more. With bots attempting every 14 seconds to break into every large enterprise, it would be foolish to trust more. (In a decade we can only assume attacks will be even more frequent.) Still, in a re-architected information environment, properly designed systems, services, devices and networks supporting organizations with information-security awareness embedded in the organizational culture can do a much better job of distinguishing between that which they can trust and that which they do not know. Online transaction volumes will continue to grow, even as malicious insiders, bots, criminal gangs and nation-states also grow. Blockchain technology is an incredibly promising piece of a much bigger conundrum. Secure irrevocable ledgers are a great accounting mechanism without which the Internet of Things should not be trusted. But, as continued hacks of Bitcoin indicate, a secure ledger pointing to resources of value can also be used as a map to point out to thieves and bots where the money is.”

Subtheme: There are reasons to think blockchain might not be as disruptive and important as advocates hope

Some respondents in this canvassing expressed doubts about the efficacy of blockchain.

Jerry Michalski, founder at REX, wrote, “Trust will grow, but not because organizations delivering services will be more trustworthy. Instead, systems will become more robust and we humans will become more acclimated to what they do. Our resistance will weaken. Our appetites will be whetted. Cybersecurity breakdowns do not seem to be hurting public confidence much. The blockchain may shift trust considerably, away from traditional institutions and out to the open ledger. But the blockchain is an act of faith as well, and may end up as flawed as previous platforms have been.”

Gus Hosein, executive director at Privacy International, commented, “Oh, stop talking about blockchains – it’s just the latest in the trend of ‘tech X shall solve woe Alpha.’ We have the knowledge and the capabilities with technologies that have been around for years but a lack of imagination and political understanding has inhibited useful dispersion.”

Theme 5: The less-than-satisfying current situation will not change much in the next decade

About a quarter of respondents to this canvassing predicted that trust will stay about the same in the next decade. They generally see a persistent arms race between those trying to exploit the vulnerabilities of the internet – regularly shattering the trust of at least some users – and those trying to fight back. They see no end to cybersecurity problems.

Security measures and hacking are in an arms race. For every advance there will be setbacks.Charlie Firestone

Jason Hong, associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University, noted, “The main reason trust won’t advance significantly in the near future is cybersecurity. Every single week there is news about some new massive data breach or malware attack. These kinds of cybersecurity problems rightfully erode people’s trust in the internet, and they are only getting worse over time as script kiddies, criminals and state-sponsored hackers get more sophisticated.”

Charlie Firestone, communications and society program executive director and vice president at The Aspen Institute, wrote, “Security measures and hacking are in an arms race. For every advance there will be setbacks. I expect the balance to remain about where it is, with peaks and valleys as the race continues. With trust, people will increase use of online media for transactions. Blockchain technology is a net plus in this ongoing saga.”

K.G. Schneider, a higher-education administrator, wrote, “We will see the same cycles of increasing trust followed by breaches followed by new technologies.”

Ian Peter, an internet pioneer and historian based in Australia, wrote, “Trust is currently rather low and I expect it to stay that way, while, paradoxically, usage is likely to rise dramatically. Despite their mistrust, people are likely to give more weight to the convenience of online transactions than they to do the risks involved.”

Theme 6: Trust will diminish because the internet is not secure and powerful forces threaten individuals’ rights

A number of the most highly respected experts, many of whom preferred to remain anonymous in answering, were among the quarter of respondents who said they expect trust will actually diminish over the next decade. They listed various reasons, but those cited most often were: 1) Corporate business models are tuned to profit-making and government motivations tend toward national security, leaving little attention paid to individuals’ rights to personal privacy and personal security protections. 2) The internet was not created with trust-building in mind, and criminal exploits and other manipulative gaming of networks by political and social actors are expected to rise, possibly exponentially, in the future.

Technology is far outpacing security, privacy and reliability. The problem will intensify with the Internet of Things, as the internet connects more machines in the physical world.Marc Rotenberg

Vinton Cerf, vice president and chief internet evangelist at Google, co-inventor of the Internet Protocol and Internet Hall of Fame member, noted, “Trust is rapidly leaking out of the internet environment. Unless we strengthen the ability of content and service suppliers to protect users and their information, trust will continue to erode. Strong authentication to counter hijacking of accounts is vital.”

Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, commented, “Technology is far outpacing security, privacy and reliability. The problem will intensify with the Internet of Things, as the internet connects more machines in the physical world.”

Richard Stallman, president of the Free Software Foundation and Internet Hall of Fame member, wrote, “I expect people will learn to distrust online commerce more, as they see servers will be cracked and their personal information will become available to bad actors (both criminals and states).”

Subtheme: Corporate and government interests are not motivated to improve trust or protect the public

Henning Schulzrinne, a professor at Columbia University and Internet Hall of Fame member, wrote, “Under the current system, almost all the risks of breaches are borne by individuals, particularly in terms of time and effort of fixing problems. Data once leaked cannot be un-leaked. I’m assuming that the current sorry state of system security will persist, with buggy IoT [Internet of Things] software, slow upgrades of Android and websites that are still subject to SQL injection and other common programming problems. Currently, blockchain systems do not seem to address any real problems, except if you are in the business of distributing ransomware.”

Jim Warren, longtime technology entrepreneur and activist, responded, “As much as I use, enjoy and am mostly an enthusiastic user of online interactions, sadly, I have to say that it is becoming more and more difficult to do many of them in a reliably secure fashion. Assuring that such interactions are surely reliable and secure is not easy, and perhaps impossible. It certainly doesn’t help when governments do everything possible to make sure that such activities – notably some ‘types’ of communications – are difficult or impossible. No matter how much it might – and often might not – help governments protect their citizens (or too often much more important to them, protect themselves and those who govern).”

Dave Burstein, editor at Fast Net News, observed, “Surveillance is the biggest obstacle to trust. It will increase as countries other than the U.S. deploy the tools. Multinationals like Facebook and Google/Doubleclick will become even more effective at tracking, and they will be ubiquitous.”

An anonymous professor of digital media at an Australian university wrote, “The internet will be a less open and diverse environment in the next decade. Facebook will be as likely to control [the internet] as a distributed system like blockchain.”

An anonymous systems engineer observed, “Corporate greed prevents things from being done well/secure.”

Alf Rehn, professor and chair of management and organization at Åbo Akademi University in Finland, said, “Call it the iron law of internet trust – with more engagement comes more chances of glitches and hacks, which means that intelligent distrust will be a civic skill just like media literacy.”

An anonymous freelance consultant commented, “Trust will be strengthened if and only if the door is opened to effective, open-source security and corporate and government liability for security negligence. Current trends are the opposite, making security research illegal with the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) and other trade deals, DRM (Digital Rights Management), etc. Transparency is necessary. We’ve known for centuries that markets are only effective when there is trust backed up by rule of law. When laws prevent effective security, we destroy trust and thus destroy markets. We’re on the wrong path.”

An anonymous programmer and data analyst said, “Corporations grant us access to technology and services in order to increase revenue. This will not change, as the basic infrastructure of the internet is not amenable to privacy and security. Instead we’ve seen a series of patchwork solutions that ultimately always fail or are subverted. Without a total rebuild of the internet itself this will not change, therefore, trust is an illusion.”

An anonymous respondent said, “The internet is a security [farce]. Everyone knows that. The NSA [U.S. National Security Agency] is logging this right now. I’m sure three Russian mobs already have all my passwords.”

Some respondents predict the public’s dismay and distrust could lead to “rebellion.” An anonymous senior software engineer at Microsoft said, “We will trust the experiences less as the larger structures (corporate, government) try to remain in control, yet we will become more dependent on them than ever through the pervasiveness (i.e., online micropayments) and lure (i.e., virtual reality). It will be a phase of a love-hate relationship which could cause rebellion against the system.”

Subtheme: Criminal exploits will diminish trust

While some optimistic respondents whose remarks are included in earlier segments of this report believe that technological solutions will upgrade trust by 2026, many of these respondents have no faith in rescue by tech. An anonymous computer scientist commented, “We are now paying the ‘technical debt’ for an internet that lacks essential facilities for security (e.g., association control). The ‘attack surface’ is growing faster than our ability to protect it; complexity is growing due to shoddy science and poor programming. There is no magic solution in tech itself; it is a process and culture change, rather like how financial services regulation has matured in response to past crises.”

It just appears that anyone and anything can be hacked and likely will be eventually. It’s hard to figure out how to put that trust back in the bottle.Jan Schaffer

Raymond Plzak, former CEO of a major regional internet governance organization, commented, “Trust will be diminished. It is eroding now. There are too many instances of abuse and misuse today.”

Jan Schaffer, executive director at J-Lab, replied, “It just appears that anyone and anything can be hacked and likely will be eventually. It’s hard to figure out how to put that trust back in the bottle.”

An anonymous project manager said, “Online security is a complex problem that depends on human behavior to function. With so much infrastructure moving online and a lack of focus on re-engineering our systems with security and privacy at their heart, a string of high-profile failures will taint these new technologies for years to come.”

Another anonymous respondent wrote, “The dystopian, tiered future of science fiction is going to be considered a quaint underestimation. There will be a hated elite of genuinely computer-literate people who will be relied upon to maintain the oligarchical power structure we have now.

A third anonymous respondent observed, “The intrusion of networked computing into many new areas, such as digitally networking hospitals for diagnostic imaging, self-driving cars, creates the potential for a startling security threat that could cause widespread chaos. This is not a new idea. Clifford Stoll’s book ‘The Cuckoo’s Egg’ (1989) pointed out that the hackers infiltrating his Unix system could just as well have been infiltrating the operating system of a gamma camera or other clinical system. We know that many governments are putting efforts into cyberwarfare. This offers another avenue for disaster.”

An anonymous sociologist at the Social Media Research Foundation commented, “Weaponized information systems will corrode the credibility of these systems. Once faith in the validity of network-delivered data is eroded, the entire superstructure of the network will collapse. If stock prices, weather reports and news articles are clearly seen to be manipulated and fraudulent, how will the means of communication survive?”

An anonymous respondent replied, “We create these processes with reactive technologies, not proactive, so the hackers will constantly be one step ahead. I don’t see trust strengthening, or us winning on this one. Blockchain systems will hopefully help, but I firmly believe humans can outwit anything we come up with.”

Beyond the major themes: Some broader explorations of trust

Beyond those pointed themes, some respondents wrote answers that looked at the grand sweep of the trust problem and how it will evolve.

The answer of Susan Price, digital architect at Continuum Analytics, had that tone and offered a solution: “The paradox is that in order for individuals to realize the incredible potential of technology, we must each uniquely self-identify. Doing so involves great risk. Individuals routinely surrender their rights and commit to legal agreements without studying or understanding the risks and value changing hands. What’s needed is a system (a human application programming interface, or API) that gives individuals appropriate control over their online activities and the data that most closely concerns them. Corporations and governments could ‘opt in’ to support such a system, but must not be the primary creators or maintainers of it. Unless such a system is created and popularized, trust in online systems overall will diminish because governments will continue to violate citizens’ privacy, hackers and thieves will thrive, and corporations will shift more and more of the burdens onto consumers. If an appropriate system emerges and everyone plays by the same rules, trust would ensue.”

One anonymous respondent devised a human solution to the trust problem – one that might also have the virtue of creating a new category of jobs: “People will not have a choice. Online/automated/precast dealings will be involuntary. One possible new future ‘job’ role: Personal  Interactive  Consultant (PIC). Someone who specializes in knowing you and your family in order to more effectively interface with companies/corporations/government. Kind of like we used to use travel agents and insurance brokers, and even lawyers, the PIC works as our advocate in order to get something done within an industry or institution that would otherwise be beyond the average person’s ability or convenience level. The PIC probably would not be able to handle all interactions; the PIC would likely be a hired face for a large company with specialized resources to handle all types of inquiries and interactions. Let’s call it a Lifestyle Information Management company (LIM). There already are PICs today, but on a smaller scale. And maybe LIMs already exist in some rudimentary form.”

Another such sweeping answer came from an anonymous institute director who wrote, “All areas of life will be changed dramatically by data-driven algorithmic cognition and decision-making. The network will break down traditional social domains, such as business, politics, health care, education, science, etc. Networks cut across these domains and make them increasingly inefficient. There is no smart city without smart education, science, healthcare, business, etc. And smartness comes from integration of all data sources and networked infrastructures. Whether positive or negative is a pointless question. Who is to judge? According to what criteria? If you had asked the ancient Greeks whether the Roman Empire was positive or negative, would the question have made any sense? … The network norms of connectivity, flow, communication, participation, transparency, authenticity and flexibility will influence how society changes.”

And a final thought along these lines was offered by Tse-Sung Wu, a project portfolio manager at Genentech, who said, “As long as access to and innovation in the internet and related devices remains relatively unfettered, it is likely more and more interactions will be mediated by these devices. All kinds of commerce, the provision of services and goods, health care, the sharing of ideas, teaching, leisure/entertainment, etc. Where it will break down is when we try to replicate a face-to-face interaction online but underestimate the breadth and depth of the face-to-face interaction. Technology is inherently reductionist, and we have many examples where this has failed us, or worse, it has failed us but we don’t notice it till too late. Environmental crises are a perfect example: Technology mediates our relationship with the natural world, leading us to underestimate its value to our way of life. We have now evolved into a relationship with the natural world that is unsustainable, and this happened in part because technology has numbed us to signals that otherwise would have informed us to act differently. Online technology, insofar as it permeates all the spheres of human interaction, will likely do the same. The creation of online communities where people still feel lonely; the illusion of choice of the many potential dating/life partners, yet people stay single: Many such contradictions will continue to abound because of reductionist, incomplete understanding of human interactions that form the basis of the technologies intended to replace them.”

Responses from additional key experts regarding the future of trust in online activities

This section features responses by several of the many top analysts who participated in this canvassing. Following this wide-ranging set of comments, a much more expansive set of quotations directly tied to the six primary themes identified in this report begins on Page 34.

Distributed privacy, defensive agents and personal control can build trust

Jamais Cascio, distinguished fellow at the Institute for the Future, observed, “The strengthening of trust is contingent upon the lack of a big ‘asteroid-impact’ event, and assumes that the dynamics currently at play (tension between crime and law enforcement, surveillance and privacy, etc.) continue. Blockchain and similar technologies will help drive this increased trust, but not simply because of broader use of encryption. Blockchain, etc., will make possible truly novel approaches to banking, shopping, learning and nearly every other kind of online interaction. Distributed privacy, defensive personal software agents, and increased individual control over personal information will create new playing fields of transactions. Big corporations will leap at those fields, but won’t be able to totally control them. The analogy here is the use of mobile phone minutes as a pseudo-currency in Africa, which started as a bottom-up, ad-hoc phenomenon. Formalization as mPesa and similar programs streamlined the process, but in this scenario ultimate control over the uses of the minute/currency would still rest in the hands of the users.”

As data breaches rise, device use continues unabated due to convenience

Amy Webb, futurist and CEO at the Future Today Institute, observed, “Our trust in our devices tends to stay constant until a catastrophic event – like our accounts being hacked, or a national news story about surveillance, or our devices being stolen. And even then, our concern lasts only as long as we’re dealing with the immediate consequences, such as having to change our passwords or canceling our credit cards. Paradoxically, in the past decade we have seen a dramatic increase in data breaches, and yet we continue to entrust our devices with our fingerprints, our faces, our heart rates, our exact locations and more – in addition to our credit card numbers and bank accounts. We willingly put our trust in our devices and digital networks when the benefits of convenience outweigh our fears about privacy. Over time, as our codependent relationship with our devices becomes more acute, the very notion of privacy, and indeed its importance, begins to erode. Those areas of life that will ask for more and more of our personal data include health care, state and national government, travel, commerce, and of course, personal communications – technology companies and social networks. We will put up a fight unless the benefits are immediately understandable and daily life is little bit better for the exchange. This is why we hear people grumble about Facebook and Google’s privacy policies, and we continue to use both – because they’ve become indispensable part of our lives. The fact that the government has access to similar personal data – in fact, some would argue it’s less than what we’re sharing with tech companies – continually enrages us. Why? Because we’re not distracted by immediate, tangible benefits in exchange for our data.”

‘Social machine natives will trust their ubiquitously connected environment’

Jim Hendler, a professor of computer science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, replied, “The issue isn’t areas of application, but the socio-technical issue of the trust of users in the technology. Given that young children now increasingly have access to smartphones and computing, that access is becoming more ubiquitous, and that the use of these is increasing in all population sectors, it is clear that the generation growing up as ‘social machine natives’ (like digital natives, but more embedded in the social fabric) will age without the distrust their grandparents and parents may have had. Technologies like blockchain, etc., are enablers, but much as modern drivers have more trust in their vehicles without knowing how the engines function, social machine natives will trust their ubiquitously connected environment without needing to know the implementation details.”

People will trust less when they learn more about the nature of the tech they use

John Markoff, retired senior writer at The New York Times, commented, “Inevitably as people learn more about the nature of the technology they are using their trust will decline.”

Maybe a little reduction in trust could be healthy

Jonathan Grudin, principal researcher at Microsoft, commented, “This question should be prefaced by asking, ‘Do people today trust in online interactions too much, too little or just the right amount?’ Mass media stories make it clear that many people trust online media too much and come to regret it. A little reduction in trust could be healthy. The other questions are: Will online media become more trustworthy? Will most people become better at assessing when to trust it? It could become more trustworthy, but I won’t hold my breath. I think people will become somewhat better at assessing trustworthiness.”

A vast loss of agency accompanies the gain of convenience, a trade-off with limits

Doc Searls, journalist, speaker, and director of Project VRM at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, wrote:

“Phones are already extensions of our hands and minds. Yet they are also only a nine-year-old technology (dating from the advent of apps, in the summer of 2007), and dominated by handheld units that tend to be replaced by their owners about every 18 months. Meanwhile, the services behind many of the most-used apps are becoming more intelligent, complex and opaque about the full extent of what they are up to. We tend not to see these services’ involvements with surveillance, manipulative algorithms, artificial intelligence and collaborations with parties unknown. For the most part this seems benign, but on the whole it masks a loss of agency behind a gain of convenience.

“At some point, however, this trade-off – which is one we never consciously made – will reach limits. It isn’t clear yet what those will be, but the Faustian nature of this non-bargain will surely become manifest. This is when trust will break down. In fact it already has in the regulatory sphere. The abuses of surveillance capitalism (the term coined by Shoshana Zuboff of Harvard Business School) are well-known and highly irksome to lawmakers and regulators, especially in Europe. This is why, for example, we now have the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the EU. Expect this single law to radically alter the way online businesses treat users and customers, and personal data gathered from them. The anticipated arrival of the GDPR’s full regulatory might in 2018 (with severe penalties for noncompliance) is already altering the way many big businesses approach personal data. In the words of one executive (who works for one of those big companies and asks to stay unnamed), personal data is quickly becoming a ‘toxic asset.’ He also calls surreptitiously gathered personal data the ‘radon gas’ of business, and ‘a silent killer.’

“But the most important moves will not be made by big business. Instead they’ll be made by independent individuals and smaller businesses that need to interact in a fully trusting way, where exposure to risks and bad acting are minimized by point-to-point and end-to-end conversations, transactions and relationships. There will also be a rise in conditional sharing of personal information on a need-to-know basis, and on terms set by individuals as well. Some of these terms will be sourced in neutral and trusted dot-orgs such as Customer Commons, which will do for personal terms what Creative Commons did for personal copyright.

“Also, expect a distinction to appear between sovereign personal identity – the kind given to people by their parents at birth and fully controlled by the individual – and administrative identifiers. Identity in the future will be anchored in the former rather than the latter. So will control over how we are known by others. Imagine, for example, getting married and changing your last name. You should be able to change administrative records of your last name at all the government and commercial entities with which you have a relationship in one move. That is only possible when you are in full control of your own sovereign-source identity and the means by which others know it, and can trust your authority over it. Expect to see this change in the way identity works come to pass over the next few years. Also expect to see distributed ledgers (e.g., blockchain) involved.”

Rather than feed on fears, promote what could go right – we can figure it out

Jeff Jarvis, a professor at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism, said, “To believe that our trust in technology will be diminished is to believe that we are powerless against it – and I do not believe that. We have many tools at hand to govern our own use of technology – norms, laws, regulation, the market – and we are using them. Sadly, media do not help with this process by usually donning dystopian glasses, asking what could go wrong with any technology rather than also exploring what could go right. Moral panic – #technopanic – often ensues. Also, whole markets of new companies pop up to feed on these fears. And, especially in Europe, industries and institutions that are challenged by the change technology brings resort to political pressure, regulation and legislation as protectionism. So it is important for the technologists to do a better job of acknowledging and addressing what could go wrong and of exploring and promoting what could go right. It is important for other institutions – government, media, education – to help explore the opportunities, if for no other reason than to remain competitive in the world. We’re smart. We’ll figure it out. We always have, eventually.”

Setting appropriate choices in engineering the technology can improve outcomes

Fred Baker, fellow at Cisco Systems and longtime Internet Engineering Task Force leader, wrote, “Fundamentally, I don’t think the average individual understands the communication media they use, whether it is a postal envelope, the dial on a rotary phone, Morse code or the many different kinds of communication that use the internet. They trust them implicitly, until they are given a reason not to, or they don’t trust them. If anything, that’s why we have to limit their choices, such as by forcing the use of https over http, or the use of TLS in SMTP, or other places. It helps them make better choices. Where that breaks down is when trust is clearly violated. In my father’s era, General/President Eisenhower had to tell people to beware the military/industrial complex, and Washington had to tell citizens to ‘beware foreign entanglements.’ Governments have grossly failed us in the past 50 years, leading UK people to distrust the EU, U.S. people to distrust NSA and FBI, and so on. That hopefully forces people to use the media more wisely, but I don’t believe that they do.”

People’s trust in online interactions are now and will continue to be unconscious

Barry Chudakov, founder and principal at Sertain Research and StreamFuzion Corp., replied, “While database hacking and identity theft will continue to bedevil users and make headlines, for most of us, convenience and immediacy will continue to far outweigh trust in our online interactions over the next decade. Today the default position of virtually every business is to move online. Try calling an insurance company or an airline to ask a quick question: The queue has moved from outside the store to the 888 number. Online is the new landline …. While some may grumble about the impersonal nature of online interactions, most people have little choice but to trust the online experience. If you don’t want to physically visit and buy from a brick and mortar store, what else is there? Most people will say or think: The decision has been made and I wasn’t part of the decision-making.

“As a result, people’s trust in online interactions will be implicit, unconscious. It is now, and will continue to be, like driving a car on roads where accidents happen regularly. You need to go somewhere so you get in the car, despite traffic and road construction and obstacles and even the danger of accidents. This doesn’t mean you won’t at some point complain about highway congestion; likewise, people will continue to both like the ease of online interactions yet grumble about security, identity chasing and tracking as they conduct more business than ever in cyberspace.

“There is no area of life that won’t be affected. Economics, health, education, politics, culture – all are changed by the interaction of devices and the Internet. This is because as people use cellphones and the Internet we have tangibly altered reality …. The impacts are and will continue to be both positive and negative; this is because the impacts are revolutionary and, again, cannot be contained by binary formulations. This new reality changes our behaviors and especially how we see others and ourselves. Cellphones, smart devices, are now instruments of documentation, and in this measure, are tools of validation. I text, therefore I am. I am here. This is what I saw. I am alive. I am dressed (or undressed) a certain way …. The act of showing the act may now be more important than the act itself. This is not inconsequential: Crimes that might have gotten a slap on the wrist now send athletes and others to jail or into retirement because a cellphone captured their questionable (or criminal) behaviors. Citizen journalists who witness a disturbance, a shooting, an accident, especially with political overtones, are now not only adjuncts to the news – they are the news. They are bringing us first-hand reports that are raw, unfiltered and often devoid of context. Yet, the immediacy of these reports – the lack of filter, and often the lack of vetting – is both thrilling and disturbing.

“We have to construct protocols to respond to this new phenomenon that is changing our sense of reality …. Our identity is portable and, with some effort, able to be manipulated, stolen, recast, taken from us. Ask anyone who’s had an episode of identity theft how weird it is to plead with authorities to recognize you – as you. The result is that recognition technologies, already gaining sophistication (face recognition, voice recognition, emotion recognition) will increasingly be used to validate what we once thought was obvious and we took for granted: our ability to be ourselves, to be who we are.”

Resigned and uncomfortable, the public has no other realistic option

Susan Etlinger, industry analyst at Altimeter Group, wrote, “In the early days of the internet when there were no precedents for ‘e’ business, venture capitalists funded business models they understood. Of course, the prevailing model in those days was advertising: eyeballs, clicks and any measure of ‘engagement’ that would prove that organizations were earning their customers’ attention. This has made consumer data the dominant currency of the internet. But while we’ve become good at earning attention, we haven’t done so well at earning trust. Study after study reiterates that consumers are uneasy with the ways organizations collect and use their data. They feel resigned and uncomfortable, but they have no other realistic option. They may do a ‘digital detox’ for a few days, but not too many people are trying to live off the grid. So there is a tremendous opportunity to realign two seemingly conflicting imperatives: the imperative to innovate and perform, and the imperative to sustain long-term, trusted relationships with customers and consumers. I think we can do both, but it’s going to get worse before it gets better. Organizations are going to see a continued flight from open platforms to closed ones like Snapchat, WeChat and other messaging apps, and they’re going to have to prove that they’re trusted actors in order to woo customers back to the open web.”

There should be expanded ‘public defenders’ for online systems

Ben Shneiderman, professor of computer science at the University of Maryland, commented, “Trust is essential to success of online systems. Clearly identified responsible parties should be available to answer user questions, deal with errors/failures, and promote continuous improvement. Public presentations of the number of fraudulent translations, criminal attacks, malicious uses, etc., should be available, just as police crime data or airline delays are public. The ombudsman idea, Better Business Bureau and public defenders need to be expanded for online systems.”