The Internet ecosystem is held together by a surprisingly intangible glue — trust. To meet its full potential, users need to trust that the Internet works reliably and efficiently when providing them with the information they are seeking, while also being secure, private and safe. When trust in the Internet wanes, the network’s stock of “digital social capital” falls and users begin to alter their online behaviour. These often subtle changes in behaviour tend to be collectively highly maladaptive, hindering the economic, developmental and innovative potential of the globe-spanning network of networks.
Look Who’s Watching: Surveillance, Treachery and Trust Online confirms in vivid detail that the trust placed by users in the Internet is increasingly misplaced. Edward Snowden’s revelations that the United States National Security Agency and other government agencies are spying on Internet users, the proliferation of cybercrime and the growing commodification of user data and regulatory changes — which threaten to fragment the system — are all rapidly eroding the confidence users have in the Internet ecosystem.
Based on a combination of illustrative anecdotal evidence and analysis of new survey data, Look Who’s Watching clearly demonstrates why trust matters, how it is being eroded and how, with care and deliberate policy action, the essential glue of the Internet can be restored.