The digital age has provided the world at large with unprecedented access to services and information. The explosion of the Internet, which is now omnipresent in our everyday lives, has given rise to numerous and significant advantages. Understanding how the digital age is impacting our personal privacy, however, is crucial.

Despite the fantastic elements of the Internet, users have to understand that nothing comes without a cost. Today, we readily provide our private data for big corporations to do with them as they please while several governments of the world impose heavy surveillance programs, often under the nose of their citizens. What is the future of privacy in the Internet era?

Expansion of surveillance

Since Edward Snowden’s NSA revelations, government surveillance has moved from the realm of paranoia to the realm of facts. Now, we know that several countries around the world have set up their own surveillance systems which are used to spy on their citizens in the name of national security.

This is one of the most sensitive and divisive issues of the digital age. Some argue that security triumphs privacy. Others argue that people have an undeniable right to lead private lives and that governments must not interfere with that. Regardless of where one might stand on the issue, however, one thing is clear: surveillance will not only stop but will be expanded even further.

Increases in data collection

A few years or decades ago, the concept of freely providing personal data to corporations was considered absurd. Several authors had warned, with fiction or fact, that personal data should be protected at all costs. The alternative would result in a future with little to no personal privacy as personal data would become a sort of currency.

Today, this is simply a fact of life. For instance, we provide Google, Facebook, Twitter, and other companies with a wealth of information every single day. We also do not think twice about accepting user agreements, even though their services may impose on our privacy.

Privacy vs. convenience

One of the most glaring trends of our time, which will only be strengthened in the future, is the concept of sacrificing privacy for convenience. For instance, searching for something on DuckDuckGo is private but will not yield any personalized results at all. In contrast, Google searches provide the company with personal data but also provide us with more convenient results.

Social networks everywhere

Considering the fact that Facebook has about 2 billion users, or ~28% of the world’s population, it is not hard to imagine that social networks in the future will be huge. Even today, most people with an Internet connection spend a considerable amount of time on a variety of social networks.

In the future, Internet access will most likely be available for a far larger percentage of the population. Thus, it follows that more and more people will be connected to social networks. Services like Facebook will become an even more inseparable part of life, and the privacy implications that are attached to them will become even more prevalent.

Privacy only off-the-grid

Though this is somewhat true to the day as well, complete privacy in the future may only be possible for those who live entirely off-grid. A connected world means that every single action is logged somewhere and that privacy is a luxury afforded by very few.

Regardless of any measures taken to protect one’s identity online, privacy in the digital age has to be redefined. The old definitions no longer seem to apply, and this will only become more apparent in the future where the rest of the world will be connected as well.