The Inevitable Death of Privacy

//just a disclaimer, I did write this for school, but because of the severe lack of content on my site (and also I kinda like what I wrote), I decided to post it here.

The Inevitable Death of Privacy

Privacy is something most people take for granted. It’s not something to think about often, except for when turning off the privacy settings on facebook. After all, if your profile isn’t public, how else can your friends and relatives find you? To counter this, I quote Edward Snowden:

“Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.”

In The Circle by Dave Eggers, Mae Holland is given the opportunity to work at the mysterious and much revered Circle. Founded by a young genius, Ty Gospodinov, with an annoyance at the disorganization of accounts on the internet, the Circle gained traction with a program called “TruYou”. The purpose of this program was to unify the internet: one social media platform, one payment method, one identity across all of the web. The program required a social security number and driver’s license. This was to seemingly eliminate identity theft, and on the surface it worked. The circle created and improved upon a number of programs like this, having seemingly unending capital and international influence. Not everyone is thrilled about the seemingly totalitarian future the circle was bringing, such as Mae’s parents, and her ex boyfriend Mercer.

At a party during her first week at the Circle, Mae meets a man named Francis. They seemingly hit it off, but Francis continually insults her unintentionally. A particular compliment leaves Mae feeling “like she’d been slapped.” Francis had been abused as a child, which gave him a particular drive to create a program called ChildTrack. The purpose of the program was to implant every child with a tracking device, which could be seen by the parents, and an automated system at the circle that would tell the parents if anything was wrong. Because of the invasive nature of the implants, it was unlikely that the children would opt to have them removed once they became adults. This would provide a private corporation with accurate location data (even when cell phones and other electronics were disabled) on every citizen with wealthy, concerned, or overprotective parents. Eventually the program could become a requirement for all children, or even all citizens.

The seemingly endless influence and power of the Circle did not excite all as it excited the employee’s at the circle. Even Mae Holland had her misgivings at first, and was surprised at being scolded for not attending optional social events. On some weekends she decided to visit her sick father, and was questioned as to why she wasn’t posting about her journey every step of the way. Sharing her every move became second nature after awhile of conforming to the circle, so much so that getting caught stealing a kayak (a crime she was not charged for), which she later returned, became the catalyst for her going “fully transparent.” A move originally thought of to improve transparency in politicians, going “transparent” would require one to wear a camera at all parts of the day, save bathrooms and bedtimes.

Privacy might not be something you think about in day to day life, but for people living in oppressive countries, people with abusive parents or spouses, or even people with a desire to keep their personal and professional lives separate, privacy is a very important thing. Every day more people become connected, and with that, more people lose their privacy. Everything you do online is tracked, sent to the government, sold to advertisers, and used countless other ways. The Circle is a book meant to educate people on the need for privacy, but if you share the same utopic view as Mae Holland, is can also be a book detailing the need for a lack of privacy. Giving up that one freedom could lead to countless benefits. In the long run, we might not have much choice. Privacy is dead, and there’s not much we can do about it.