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.
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: