Privacy Is Dead, and We're Happier Than Ever (1984)

This is a YouTube video from the future. It’s 2030. Privacy is dead, and we’re happier than ever.

Security cameras, dashcams, monitors, laptops, smartphones, even glasses - there are telescreens… sorry, cameras, everywhere. And we love them. We can video chat with our friends, share our deepest, darkest secrets on social media, or look into our neighbor’s backyard to make sure they’re not looking into ours.
The camera must always be on to unlock your smartphone with facial recognition software. It frequently scans your face and matches it with the visual data you gave when you first used the phone.

This always-on camera is terrific for unlocking your phone swiftly, accessing your bank account, or giving a hypothetical totalitarian government a necessary check-in on your life. But it’s OK, no one is watching you now. If anything, these features enable more privacy. We should call your smartphone a privacy enabler. Your phone also comes equipped with a microphone for phone calls and recording video. And for listening to your conversations so the AI assistant will know when it’s being called, and to let the ad companies hear what you truly want.

Have you ever noticed that sometimes ads pop up in your social media feed about stuff you’ve never searched for before but only spoken about with friends? Isn’t that great? You get served what you want without having to search for it.
Are these apps spying on you? Well, we can’t definitively say that they are. But hypothetically, it would be great because those in power looking after us could listen in on our conversations and catch criminals before they can commit a crime. I know I’d feel safer, wouldn’t you? That’s why it’ll be called the safety enabler feature.

When you go on TikTok, the For You Page serves you content for the exact situation you’re going through. Just been broken up with? Here’s a video to comfort you. Bored out of your mind? Here’s a video to excite you. Have an unfounded belief that you don’t want to let go of? Here’s some misinformation to ground you. The best thing about this is that this data doesn’t stay on the platform. It can be bought by almost any third party. Sure, it may be anonymized, but everyone can access open-source tools to build a more complete picture of who you are. A man who recently lost his daughter found a disturbing letter sent from a service he uses: OfficeMax. After his name, the following detail was printed on the front of the letter, “Daughter Killed in Car Crash.”

The note was printed on the letter by mistake, but it demonstrates how much data is out there on individuals. The company insisted that the description came from a third party, which was used to fill out a more complete understanding of the grieving father.

And you might say that’s very invasive. But is it? How else is the algorithm supposed to know to feed him videos that will comfort him? Exactly. Nothing wrong with more people, even the government, getting to know the real you. No one should have to grieve alone, am I right? If anything, we should encourage even more privacy sharing to build community. Sure, some people say they want to grieve privately, but they don’t mean it, and we will not let them do so.
You might wonder when or if you agreed to this tracking.

When you log into a phone for the first time or sign up for a social media account, you consent to share your data. Sure, it’s buried in a bunch of legalese, but ultimately, you ticked that box. You may not realize that you are doing more sharing than just a bunch of posts between friends and followers, but you are, and that’s a good thing. Hiding is the enemy of privacy. How can those in power defend and protect you if you hide from them constantly?

Many apps on your phone track your location data. Anything that uses mapping software, like Uber, Bolt, Google Maps. Even Snapchat knows where you are. And like all the other data that social media collects, it’s shared. That just makes you easier to find, and discoverability is a virtue.

Imagine you are lost hiking in the woods, and no one has the location data to find you. Your loved ones would be worried sick and future governments would be unable to find you to make sure you’re following all their rules. That would be concerning.

What’s better than sharing your physical location? Sharing every digital location you’ve been on the internet. Third-party cookies in your browser share all the websites you’ve visited with advertisers and other interested parties. All of the websites. Every last one, even in incognito. Yes, even that website.

Sadly, these third-party cookies won’t be around for much longer. Governments are introducing data privacy laws that will ensure you give meaningful consent for sharing your data. But you wouldn’t want to miss out on the benefits of sharing data, would you? You’ll have ads tailored to your every want and need. You’ll get recommendations on Amazon for products you definitely need.

But don’t worry about privacy laws getting in the way of data sharing. Meta was fined 1.3 billion dollars for violating the European Union privacy law, GDPR. For Meta, that’s probably just a business expense. They probably made more money violating the privacy of Meta users than that fine cost them. And was it really a violation? Or was it just overzealous privacy-sharing practices with intentions toward social connectivity? If anything, they’re heroes.

You may consider protecting your privacy by opting out of social media and switching to a dumb phone. But the truth is, you can’t avoid privacy sharing. You can go to the gym without your phone and still end up on the random TikToker’s gym vlog berating you. But isn’t that great? At least now, the millions of people who viewed that video know you go to the same gym as a Premier League superstar.

There are so many telescreens, sorry, cameras, that you can’t walk down the street without one pointing at your face. But that’s great. After all, if your child is taken by an abductor, you’d want cameras to recognize their face and report them to the authorities.

Or even worse, what if someone in the near future was loitering in the wrong assigned sector designated to their class? I would hope that facial recognition cameras would spot the transgression immediately and return them back to where they belong.

Speaking of class, when you apply for a loan, you need to share your income, credit history, online purchases and more with a lender. And lenders are pretty big on sharing. They may just send your personal information to insurance companies who love getting to know you better. More details for them to match you to the perfect rate for your lifestyle. And who doesn’t enjoy a good match?

Thinking of going off the grid with cryptocurrency? The wallet companies operate under the same Know Your Customer laws as regular banks. There’s no escape there. Any unusual purchases can still be flagged, and purchases are still tracked for marketing purposes.

The best thing about a world without privacy is that it is not optional. You need to be on social media to stay connected to family and friends. To succeed in the workplace, you’ve got to use LinkedIn regularly, or sign into an email account with Google or Microsoft. Sharing personal data is an obligation unless you’re willing to become a hunter-gatherer and live entirely off the grid. But you won’t have to worry about this because you love sharing privacy. And you’ve got lots of privacy sharing to look forward to.

In China, a social credit system is being developed to track and rate the behavior of Chinese citizens. The annoying person playing loud music on the subway? That transgression is going to impact their score. They may not be able to travel as freely in the future. The system is currently operating on an opt-in basis but is intended to become mandatory in the future.

In the West, individual institutions track people in similar ways. Banks, for example, assign a credit-style score based on shopping habits, debt payments, and other factors. Apps like Uber ask riders and drivers to score each other, which can lead to a loss or gain of privileges.

Although there aren’t currently grand ambitions for a social credit system in the West, there are plenty of nongovernment institutions to fill that void. Local governments will have to request access to these human evaluations. Future governments will expedite that process once they understand the importance of securing privacy with more sharing.

You may think you’re willing to share everything but the blood that runs through your veins. Well, I’ve got some news for you. Great news, actually. Your DNA is likely already sitting in a database. And the best part is you don’t have to opt-in; someone has likely already done it for you.

If any of your hundreds or thousands of blood relatives have shared their blood with a DNA genetic testing service. Congratulations, you’re in the system now. And the best part is that you don’t need to give your consent. Because you have no choice.

Not all these services currently share DNA with the police, but enough do, and it’s awe-inspiring. Yes, you might not have consented to it, but don’t you want serial killers to get caught? Back in 2018, after a 40 year search, the Golden State Killer was identified as former police officer Joseph James DeAngelo Jr.

How did the police solve the case? Well, Investigators had the killer’s DNA on file from one of his crime scenes but for years couldn’t find a match, until free genealogy testing became a thing. Investigators used the free genealogy and DNA database, GEDmatch, to narrow down a list of suspects.

They already had the killer’s DNA on file so all they needed to do was find a match with a relative in the database. After painstakingly recerating the killer’s family tree using the available DNA in the database, they were able to come up with possible suspects, after which they used eyewitness descriptions to find the infamous killer. And it’s not just the Golden State Killer. Almost daily, killers who have committed murder in previous decades are being identified.

Only 2% of the population need to participate in a DNA service to provide the DNA of over 99% of the total population. But there’s no need to worry. You’re not a criminal, after all. Unless you’re looking to murder an acquaintance or sign a petition that a future totalitarian government doesn’t approve of, you should be good.

These DNA services can also verify if you have or are at risk of developing a genetic condition like Huntington’s disease, cystic fibrosis, or colon cancer. They just need a sample of your blood, hair, skin, tissue, or amniotic fluid. They can also determine the chances of your baby being born with a condition. Even if you don’t have any symptoms.

They may also inform insurance companies if you’re prone to certain conditions and everything that entails. Which is great… For the insurance companies. Now they can give you the highest, sorry, best rates possible.

If you still don’t want to share your private life, I have a few questions. Why not? Are you hiding something? What have you done? Please share.

But I’m guessing you’re open to sharing. You consent to expose your private information to interested parties because there is no choice if you want to participate fully in modern society. The perks are too sweet, the repercussions too dire.

You get more opportunities in the workplace. Ads and even billboards are tailored to your wants and needs. You can know what diseases you’re susceptible to and who your ancestors are. And most importantly, you get to stay connected. Very connected. Your life is transparent, and that’s where true privacy lies.

There is no consent. Because there is no other choice. It’s 2030, privacy is dead, and we’re happier than ever.