There will be far more control of networks by agencies in terms of surveillance and content filtering. This will not be purely for security reasons – another potential driver will be the protection of copyright. Decryption methods, including deep packet inspection techniques will be likely to increase in frequency. All these developments will erode privacy – possibly undermining social and political activism in many countries – whilst stifling transparency and access to information. Increasing hyper-connectivity can also be harnessed to increase the capacity of governments and companies to track and trace the activity of Internet users.

Three possible scenarios:

  1. Democratic societies become less democratic
  2. Undemocratic regimes may crumble as a result of the Internet
  3. A divergence between democratic regimes which continue to become more participative and transparent using technology and authoritarian regimes harnessing that same technology to consolidate control and surveillance of their populations.

Governments are not going to be equally able or interested in mastering the technology behind advanced Internet surveillance. China has made an enormous investment in both personnel and technology behind surveillance – but most countries will lack the resources to develop this kind of infrastructure. There will also be widespread pressure from governments on private entities to outsource their surveillance operations. Every government will not build its own “Great Firewall” – instead they will look to the private sector or other undemocratic countries. Overall, filtering and surveillance will become cheaper and easier for governments over time.

However, it was also argued that the right of access to information has increased in many countries. Many others offer the right of asylum to bloggers and activists. Education and awareness of the importance of freedom of expression and privacy feed increasing self-regulation on the part of the individual which will also generate more due process on the part of governments.