How Will Trust In Online Evolve Over The Next 10 Years?

A new Pew Research study, conducted jointly with Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center, found that technology experts are of many minds when predicting the future of trust in digital online interactions.

The survey of 1,500+ found that 48% of respondents believe trust in online interactions -- from shopping to  "pursuit of knowledge" -- will be strengthened in the next 10 years, with 28% saying it will stay the same and 24% predicting diminished trust.

Pew also collected various comments from respondents, which together paint a kaleidoscope of opinions on the future of trust.

One of the strongest themes throughout was that trust in the online world is different from trust between individuals. Consumers appear to place convenience above trust when online.

“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,” stated Naomi Baron, a linguistics professor at American University. “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.”

Some respondents pointed to the fluidity of trust as technology continues to encroach on all parts of our daily lives.

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“Trust is not binary,” said Bob Frankston, a software innovator. “We need to have new forms of trust, and Plan Bs for when trust fails. This is where algorithms can help -- as with credit card companies seeing patterns -- but it cuts both ways.”

Coming from a similar starting point, but ending with a different conclusion, the founder of Corndancer.com, Ebenezer Baldwin Bowles, assures us that: “Trust will be strengthened, but it will be blind trust enforced by the ceaseless demands of The System, hellbent to drive everyone online.”

From Bowles’ perspective, stronger trust may not be an entirely positive development, “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.”

Meanwhile, an anonymous respondent noted that “when compliance can be mechanically enforced at scale, trust is unnecessary.”

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