Most internet users afraid privacy won’t exist in 2020

13 Jun 2011

Loss of privacy by 2020 has been cited as the No 1 concern amongst a study of 10,000 internet users in 12 European countries. The majority fear companies will track and trace their every internet move.

New research on MSN by Microsoft has revealed internet users are most concerned about privacy – here and now, and in the future – with 45pc citing loss of online privacy by 2020 as their top concern and 60pc worrying that companies will track and save their every online move.

The issue of privacy also emerged in web users’ biggest hopes for the future, with 66pc dreaming of an online future where they can browse without the worry of being watched.

The findings come as part of the Internet Explorer 9: Future of the Web study, which asked more than 10,000 internet users across 12 European countries to weigh in on their hopes, concerns and predictions for the web by the year 2020.

Although the study uncovered 45pc of respondents are frightened that there will be no such thing as privacy online, cyber crime is another big concern, with 52pc believing this will continue to rise. In addition, 46pc think the internet will take over our lives, never allowing us to unplug.

Online privacy vs intrusive institutions

“It’s clear that more and more people are becoming aware of their online privacy, and are concerned about how intrusive institutions are becoming in tracking – and exploiting – their online activities,” says Brian Kealy, Internet Explorer lead for Western Europe at Microsoft.

“In addition, the threat of cyber crime is likely to make web users even more cautious, threatening the potential that the web has for our future.”

The research also uncovered that many web surfers expect the way they act online to have a bigger impact on their real lives in the future than currently.

Some 27pc think the internet will know them better than their own partners, while 24pc believe that people’s online personas could even become more important than their real-life identities.

In addition, the study revealed it’s not just personal information that will be increasingly stored and used online. Some 33pc fear that over the next nine years, books, newspapers and magazines will become obsolete because of websites, apps and e-readers, while 38pc are frightened that high street shops will be replaced by online stores.

The younger generation is most confident that this will become a reality: 41pc of 14 to 24-year-olds expect newspapers and magazines to only exist online and also predict an increase in internet shopping. Some 21pc of 14 to 24-year-olds also predict that internet-enabled toilets will be able to give them feedback on their diets! 

Web users’ hope for HD content

Privacy concerns aside, web users also revealed their hopes for more quality content online, with 53pc wanting the future internet to deliver music, TV, films and games in high definition. In addition, 31pc hope the web will accurately predict what they want and need.

“It’s interesting to see that the delivery of high-definition entertainment is one of consumers’ biggest hopes for the future of the web as that ‘future’ is actually here today,” Kealy said.

“More high-quality entertainment is becoming available every day, and we designed Internet Explorer 9 to help users get the most out of it – delivering faster, more dynamic performance.”

On the issue of privacy, Kealy said that while we don’t know how the internet will look in 2020, there are tools available now that can help protect users’ privacy and stay guarded against threats.

“Internet Explorer 9 was developed with all of this at front of mind and is fully equipped for the future web, including features such as InPrivate Browsing, which prevents other users of your computer from seeing the sites you have visited and opt-out, which allows you to stop companies from tracking your online behaviours,” Kealy said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years