Life After A Total Hack is a short sci-fi story where everyone (yes everyone, on the entire planet) has their personal data and identities hacked and their habits posted online to a site called Schadenfreude.
Originally posted at BuzzFeed, here’s the fallout after six months:
Molly Newton began taking anti-depressants after it grew obvious Facebook would never be the same again. No one could ever trust that what they clicked and spied on would not be made public. Most of her other friends were already taking medication; she knew because she had read through the purchases on their bank accounts. The past several months had been difficult to maintain friendships at all. Everyone had secrets and no one had wanted them exposed. Since the hack, everyone was nervous and suspicious.
Molly missed her online communities: Facebook, SoundCloud, MyLife, Goodreads (though she hated to read), Twitter, Google+, Meetup, Foursquare, Pinterest, CafeMom (even though she did not like children), StumbleUpon, Flickr and LinkedIn, all of which she used to visit daily. When the hack occurred, she was nervous about visiting any of the sites lest more of her personal life get leaked online. She had been spending her time instead reading books and exercising; she had lost eighteen pounds and was in the best shape of her life. She had never looked better and could not feel good about it, because what she really wanted more than anything – more than being healthy and well-read and attractive – was to go on Pinterest and pin beautiful things to boards. The world was so much prettier and less cluttered on Pinterest, and she preferred it to the alternative of real life.
She arrived early to the restaurant. She had planned to meet her friend for lunch and had phoned to settle on the location that morning – another depressing point, having to arrange a meeting by telephone instead of text message or Twitter. Heather, her best friend of twenty-five years, the last six mostly through Facebook, also had never looked better. Both girls sat slumped in their seats. Face-to-face meetings were exhausting. Where before during lunch, both were busy updating their locations and statuses across various social media outlets, and texting friends who were not there and making future plans, the actual lunch had been an afterthought. It was easy to make small talk and spend time with a friend if you could also spend time with the rest of the world online. Now lunches were brutal.
The end result of all the personal data online — where new companies emerge as predictive shoppers/shipping services based on the spending habits of consumers — is simply perfect. I hope the author gets this made into a movie.
I doubt Immanuel Kant ever had an inkling of just how much truth could be stored (and eventually exposed) when he wrote on “a supposed right to tell lies from benevolent motives.”
UPDATE: Jerry Brito timely covers the exact opposite end of the spectrum in his post aptly titled Your right to be forgotten and my right to speak. There’s a quote from author Andrew Keen that stands out:
“My own data, which I have published on the web, I should have a right, if I choose, for that data to go away,” he said. “That doesn’t impact in any way on your right to speak.”
Brito goes on to explains the current law EU law proposal would go so far helping people delete online data as to have a chilling effect on discussions of deleted personal data:
For example, in researching this post, I searched for an essay by Joris van Hoboken, an info law PhD candidate in Amsterdam, that made a great case against the right to be forgotten. As it turns out, the blog post I was looking for had been removed. His whole site is down, perhaps for technical reasons, but perhaps because he has changed his mind and is now embarrassed by his previous views and wants them erased from the internet. Luckily, I had saved the essay in Evernote and you can see it here.
Now, van Hoboken might have the power under copyright law to make me take down the essay, but he has no right to keep me from writing about the fact that he wrote such a (potentially embarrassing) essay and even summarizing or excerpting it. That is the right that the EU would like to confer on citizens, and my right to speak is the one it wants to curtail.
He saved a blog post from deletion oblivion by copying it elsewhere, a proof of concept refutation of anyone’s ability to truly control their data once it has been captured by the attention of the Internet. I certain the EU’s proposed law will be just as fruitless in their ultimate quest for mind-erasing elixir.