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Pew Research Center

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Pew Research Center recently conducted a survey with 792 web users, and found that the urge for privacy is more common than it seems. A full 86 percent of respondents had covered their digital tracks in some way, whether it was with encryption software or simply by using a browser's incognito mode, although only 14 percent went as far as using Tor or VPN proxy servers to cover their tracks. More telling, a full 68 percent of responders said current laws were not doing a good enough job protecting privacy online, suggesting a growing base for new legislation. As one study author told The New York Times, "it's not just a small coterie of hackers. Almost everyone has taken some action to avoid surveillance."

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Further fueling the ongoing debate over the future of the news media and independent journalism, eBay founder and billionaire Pierre Omidyar last month committed $250 million to a news site co-founded by journalist and author Glenn Greenwald. Omidyar’s investment followed the announcement over the summer that Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos had purchased The Washington Post, also a $250 million investment. The late Steve Jobs’s wife, Lauren Powell, and 29-year-old Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes are also pouring money into old and new media ventures.

Could this new band of news media owners shape a technology-led business model that will be profitable and protect the integrity of impartial, ideology-free journalism? Ultimately, according to Wharton experts, the ball will rest with the consumer.

Any new business model that those in the technology world would bring to the media realm would have to address the major pain points currently facing the industry. News organizations have “suffered a lot financially in the past couple of years,” says Wharton marketing professor Pinar Yildirim. Circulation numbers and advertising revenue have shrunk as both readers and companies turned their focus to the Internet. The industry has tried to adjust to the new normal — some newspapers and magazines have cut back on issues or the number of days they produce a print product. Other news organizations have started charging for online access. Still more have tried to add content that mimics what tends to be most popular on the web, especially entertainment-related coverage, Yildirim notes.

Omidyar has indicated that he was motivated more by a desire to protect independent journalism than the prospect of getting a return on his investment, at least for now. In a blog post published on his website last month, Omidyar wrote that his investment in Greenwald’s venture (tentatively called “NewCo.”) stems from his “interest in journalism for some time now.” In 2010, Omidyar founded Honolulu Civil Beat, a news website with a stated focus on “investigative and watchdog journalism.” Earlier this summer, he explored buying The Washington Post newspaper before Bezos became the winning bidder. Around that time, Omidyar said he began thinking about the social impact he could help create with an investment in “something entirely new, built from the ground up.”

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Experts are growing more concerned about the effect of technological advancement on a generation of Americans.

According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center and Elon University, more than half of the 1,021 respondents believe that constant multitasking and zealous decision-making capabilities will generally produce positive outcomes for young adults in the future.

On the other hand, 42 percent of respondents think that the wired mentality will actually impair cognitive abilities. By 2020, Millennials will "spend most of their energy sharing short social messages, being entertained, and being distracted away from deep engagement with people and knowledge." They'll lack "deep-thinking capabilities" and "face-to-face social skills."

The good news is that Millennials will become good decision-makers and nimble analysts, but the bad news is that they'll expect instant gratification and will, often, make quick, shallow choices.

“Memories are becoming hyperlinks to information triggered by keywords and URLs," says Geoloqi's CEO Amber Case. "We are becoming ‘persistent paleontologists’ of our own external memories, as our brains are storing the keywords to get back to those memories and not the full memories themselves."

The respondents in the survey were chosen specifically for their leadership roles in prominent organizations, including GoogleMicrosoft, Cisco Systems, Yahoo, Ericsson Research, Harvard, MIT and Yale, and 40 percent of them are research scientists. 

The survey concluded that the only solution to minimizing the worse and maximizing the best would be to focus on reforming education and emphasizing digital literacy. 

"Educators should teach the management of multiple information streams, emphasizing the skills of filtering, analyzing, and synthesizing information. Also of value is an appreciation for silence and focused contemplation," the study says.

DON'T MISS: 13 ways the recession has changed how millennials view work>

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