- Update 2022
Will privacy and anonymity tools be increasingly available and used? Will use of some of these tools be criminalised? It was suggested that there will be an on-going arms race between privacy/encryption tools and monitoring/surveillance tools which will continue to escalate.
Tools to preserve anonymity online are an important feature of democratic society. However, it is a mistake to place excessive faith in online circumvention tools (email encryption, proxy servers…etc) because the vast majority of people will not use them (or know how to use them correctly). Centralised services are going to be a fact of life in 2020 for the vast majority of uses. Therefore laws will need to be in place to secure the personal information on those services and prevent government acquisition of that data without due process.
The mainstream of Internet users will always opt for interactive and user friendly services before considering security. This is also because that many of these circumvention/privacy tools have moderately degrading effect on online user experience However, in order to preserve their future market share and protect their customer base increasing numbers of online platforms will start embedding encryption and security into their services.
It was suggested that it is useful to distinguish between user demand for online privacy and online “clandestinity”. Online privacy involves personal data, postings or online choices/tastes not entering the public realm, or being used for commercial marketing or targeting purpose. Online clandestinity – involves the ability to potentially place a post or information in the public realm whilst preserving anonymity. In this instance the output of the user’s behaviour is visible (in the form of a blog post or an email) – but the origin of that behaviour remains concealed.
Virtual Private Networks will primarily be used by individuals seeking to circumvent copyright related surveillance. If privacy tools are adopted by such individuals, what are the implications for the legitimacy of those tools? If only pirates use anonymity tools then governments will have a stronger basis to make those tools illegal.
It was advanced that pseudonymity could become popular as the middle range privacy solution for the average person. This does not constitute total anonymity (required by users engaging in illegal behaviour) but is instead dependent on context. Essentially this relates to education surrounding avatar management, allowing people to manage a range of different pseudonymous identities across different online fora.
There will also be increased use of private information lockers, frequently household based. This will be coincidental with a closer connection between habeas corpus and habeas data (bringing together the concept of freedom from imprisonment without evidence or due legal process and freedom from the exploitation or access to private data without evidence or due legal process). However, it was also pointed out that the problem with pseudonymity is that users will often confuse it with anonymity. Internet service providers will always know who their customers are.