Privacy & Anonymity Today

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With the use of Distance Machine, we can see that there is a drastic increase of using terms “Privacy” and “Anonymity.”   Dave Eggers’ The Circle, provides proof to the heighten concerns of many in modern literature and life in general. Privacy and anonymity are related in their definition as being “hidden.” However, they are more like cousins than they are identical twins. Privacy is a right. Everyone should be entitled to share or conceal what they want to the public. Anonymity is a choice. The person who feeds or masks this information can chose whether they want to reveal the source from which it all comes from: themselves/others. There is the actual information versus the person(s) telling it.

In the novel, both terms are stripped from the individual. There is no such thing as privacy because “Privacy is Theft” and Circlers just don’t play that kind of ballgame. It’s considered as blasphemy!  Everything, from major events like campus parties and inventions, to simply indicating one’s blood type, is shared and “zinged.” Keeping secrets make people miserable and stored information should be shared so EVERYONE can benefit from it. To hide anything is basically taking away from another person’s benefits.

The two charts above shows how The Circle isn’t the only novel stirring up some controversy and concern about privacy and anonymity. Nowadays, people “tweet” whatever they want to say, upload as many pictures they please, and “check-in” to every single place they go to. This constant update we make on our social profiles is no different from the Circlers’. Of course, we still want our privacy. Yet, are we even respecting the term when we ourselves are so quick to give it away? Not only has the exchange of information and “privacy” completely changed, but how we view ourselves in that process did as well. There’s so many fake profiles and anonymous faces on the web that play both devil and angel. These faceless profiles set out to cause major trouble like cyber-bullying or “trolling.” The issue of cyber-bulling has increased over time and is starting at even younger ages since early research surrounding it began. On the other side, these figures leak information that is hidden from us. Like government documents or “unwanted news.” It raises the question: “Who can we trust?”

I believe that the increase of “Privacy” and “Anonymity” is due to social media and Internet access. The Web is where anything can happen. You can say what you want, when you want to, and however way you so please. These aren’t just books that research the birth of the Digital Age and how it uses these terms, but to also show the anxiety built around it.

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ALL THAT HAPPENS MUST BE KNOWN.

It’s no coincidence that the title of this post is in all caps.

Dave Egger’s The Circle makes it clear that privacy is something that isn’t a luxury to us anymore, or at least as it once was. Mae Holland lands a job at the prestigious company, The Circle, whose great influence on technology and social media is known throughout the globe. This place is entrancing. It has all these cool gadgets, dorms that feel like 5-star hotel rooms, and parties for staff members. It’s every social-media junkie or gadget-nerd’s dream job. Yet when we go further into the novel, we discover the dark side to the company and it’s mission.

Eamon Bailey, one of the three CEOs of The Circle, announces their latest project: SeeChange. It’s a small camera that’s the size of a lollipop, which can record high-definition images from practically anywhere. The best parts to this product is that it can go undetected and is very affordable. It’s lightweight, small, and of great quality. Bailey expresses how significant this product is not only for personal use, but for foreign affairs as well. Countries that are under authoritarian regimes can be monitored and “held accountable” for any actions they take. If there is one thing I took out of Bailey’s speech, it’s that SeeChange is the ultimate stalk-cam. Someone can be recording you and you would even have the slightest clue.

He turned again toward the screen and read it, inviting the audience to commit it to memory: “All that happens must be known.”

Bailey flashes this message to everyone in the company, almost in a brain-washing way, to not only promote SeeChange but to instill the true mission of The Circle. I knew from the beginning that The Circle was too good to be true. I mean, free tablets and organic mattresses to sleep on whenever you please? Where’s my application form?

But I must say, reading even further made me stop to think about signing on the dotted line. Bailey’s mantra is a warning. His company’s colt-like environment wants to take out the individual and link everyone’s lives together. Employees encourage “zinging,” similar to nowaday’s posts or tweets, so everyone is updated on each other’s lives. The more hits and activity you get, the greater your PartiRank is. The tablets and cellphones are all hardwired to feed into the motherboard. The Circle can literally know everything about you and use that information to their advantage. And that advantage can become your disadvantage. “All that happens must be known” is literal and in being so, it should send shivers down your spine.

In this Digital Age, we already knocked down the walls of our private life. Admit it to yourself, your social media accounts has been updated at least once today, just like every other day prior to. Your thoughts and actions are documented as they unfold, keeping what was once  considered private, now public. We don’t really think twice about posting on our websites. We feel safe enough that hitting “Private” on our settings will enable some kind of firewall to protect us from those we don’t want snooping around our pages. But it’s the complete opposite. Like SeeChange, monitors are going around undetected. What’s on the Internet, is on the Internet… forever.

Mae’s consent to all that The Circle asks of her to do is also something to think about. We want to have a place in this world. We want a sense of belonging. So, we follow employer’s instructions and company policies like our life depends on it. Often times, we do not question why or what does it matter. We simply follow and give the big thumbs up. This reflex is seen when agreeing to Terms & Conditions of a company. It’s a long list of things we just don’t want to read, yet agree to because we want to be able to be a part of it. Not agreeing to the Terms & Conditions means that you won’t be able to use the product or website. Now, who wants to be labeled as a loser for not signing up? Exactly. So we give our consent, to whatever it is the company asks, even if we aren’t aware of what exactly that is.

Whether it is twisted company policy or even our own conscious decision: information is going to be sent out into the open. Everything about us will be known. And terrifyingly enough, it may already be so.