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The year is 2020 and it's a digicrime nightmare scenario

Says govt thinktank

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A government think tank, Foresight, has produced a report on the future of crime in a world that has gone online.

The world of the criminal will be radically changed by new technology. Rather than nicking your car stereo, the thief of 2020 will be after your whole digital persona. Electronic theft and fraud will happen faster, reducing the chances of catching a person red-handed.

But there will be trade-offs. Physical property will be easier to protect when it can all be tagged, for example, and much more identifying evidence will be able to be gathered from the scene of a crime.

Reaction to crime will also change, as people have less contact with offenders. However, Foresight could not be sure whether attitudes would get more liberal or become harsher.

Society will become more individualised. Traditional communities will be replaced by groups united by a common interest or a common goal, rather than by an accident of geography.

These groups, the thinktank warns, could actually reinforce the more anti-social behaviours that the digital underworld of 2020 will harbour. Their actions could thwart both police and criminal activities. The report states: "Ability and tendency of those on the Internet to broadcast information when available, could conceivably harm criminal endeavours as well as those of the law enforcement and crime prevention."

The report also included descriptions of two alternative futures. One supposed to be the dark side of the digital revolution - a society divided and hiding behind walls. The second was meant ot be a happy picture of some utopian digitised society.

Frankly they both gave me the fear, and the latter rather more than the former.

If this is where technology is going, you can count me out. ®

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