Fear of the internet is stronger now than ever before. Hackers, data leaks, government corruption etc. etc. all contribute to a growing public concern over how to use the internet, how private it is and most importantly who can see what, when and how easily.
To establish what the public are most concerned about, the EU is launching an unprecedented consultation. Set up to determine what Europeans fear most about the future of the internet, a succession of surveys will delve into the psyche of humanity’s current relationship with the internet. Everything from privacy to artificial intelligence will be quizzed, as well as surveys on net neutrality, big data and the impact the internet has on jobs, health, government and democracy.
The surveys will be published in 12 newspapers across Europe over the next three, including in the Guardian in the UK. The first questionnaire is already available here and results will be compiled in early June.
President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker said that it was ‘about time’ that technology was put under the microscope. “Science should be open and freed from its traditional ivory tower; to be discussed, submitted to critique and fed with new perspectives,” he said “we want to inspire fresh ideas about how to solve some of our society’s most pressing problems.”
Fear of the internet and its capabilities was brought to the fore last month, following the Westminster terrorist attack. Following the attack, it emerged that WhatsApp messaging service had been used by ISIS militants to orchestrate the tragedy. This led to calls for end-to-end encryption to be reformed, with home secretary Amber Rudd urging technology companies to build in a back door. However, the tech sector united in defiance over the importance of encryption, arguing that putting in a back door would only escalate the issue.
A series of high-profile data leaks over the last few years has also escalated public scepticism around the security of the internet. Most recently, pay-day loan company Wonga suffered a mammoth security breach that resulted in the personal informaton of as many as 270,000 customers being exposed.