This was a topic we almost covered during our A to Z Challenge posts on Science Fiction Today. However, it’s a big topic and probably not best in that shorter format. Also, we hit on Surveillance, so we somewhat hit on the topic. But government surveillance is only part of the topic.
My take on Privacy is that it is only somewhat a right – it is also something you have to fight for. We can have expectations of Privacy, but things like government surveillance remind us that we don’t always know when or where we’re being watched. But it can be simpler and lower-tech than that – when I am home I might have an expectation of Privacy, but if my blinds are wide open then someone may well be watching!
That’s what I mean as to fighting for Privacy – perhaps working on Privacy is a better term. Constant vigilance! Or maybe the blog is the best example. We have a right to free speech – we can write what we want here, and we’re not worried about getting dragged off to jail. However, we have been careful regarding our Privacy – like names, picture of us, things like that. Or of the Geek Baby. I know a number of bloggers who use a pen name, and plenty who splash their picture and such all over. It’s a personal decision, about how much Privacy we’re looking for. We’re not all looking for the exact same level! No matter what Facebook thinks…
I’m a librarian. I know Privacy is tough. I was working in a library when the Patriot Act was passed – when the FBI got the right to come in and request library records. When libraries around the US got paper shredders to destroy paper records. Got programs to erase browser history and downloaded files and such between computer users. It’s a fight. So let’s look at a couple of possible futures when it comes to Privacy.
All There is to Know
One future is that things keep progressing like they are – that businesses (and governments) just collect more and more information on us. And get better at using it!
My vision of this, more than anything, is the movie Minority Report. We see scenes of personalized advertising – not at home in a web browser, but on the streets and in stores. In the movie, it happened through an eye scan – and Privacy was attained through a horrifying eye transplant surgery.
That also means at some point people gave up their eye scans. To the government, for identification and tracking. To businesses, for advertising and tracking.
The technology might not be based around eye scans, but something like it? Very likely.
The Right to be Forgotten
Of course, the counter impulse to the previous one also exists in the world. The fight, in Europe in particular, against companies like Google collecting, keeping, and sharing information.
However, in practice, this is incredibly hard to enforce. It could involve blocking news sources, government sources, things like that. I have also heard one side of a conversation about someone upset about which segment of an article was being shown on Google as the blurb along with the results. That seems even more ridiculous to try to control – and would potentially be different depending on search terms!
If this law goes into wider enforcement and use, I could see it putting a halt to a lot of what we are seeing from businesses today. Although… would it curtail government? The Big Brother state? I doubt that!
So in the Science Fiction Today posts, we try to consider a utopian and dystopian future. I don’t know what the utopian future around Privacy would be – I think that the fight for Privacy will continue on.
But dystopia? Oh sure.
Of course, the above can get close to dystopia as well – say, 1984. But in a full-blown post-apocalypse?
In many of those stories, we follow the action of important people – maybe those who know why the world ended, or how to get it back, or how to something something something. Or else, how to survive.
In a post-apocalyptic setting, there are lots of secrets to keep. What supplies you have. Who you are. How many are in your party. Ammo and weapons and what have you.
These sorts of situations remind us of the power of information, how valuable it is. How Privacy is some of how we keep the information valuable. Information about us. In an age of widely available information and strong information streams, thinking of a time when we have none of that is bizarre. But in the zombie apocalypse, there’s no Instagramming pictures of your shotgun…