September 11 2008 / by John Heylin
Category: Social Issues Year: General Rating: 5 Hot
We’ve seen it in all the best science fiction movies — people going to extreme lengths to avoid being seen by big brother. There’s Quaid removing a tracking device in his head through his nose, there’s Anderton having his eyes replaced with someone else in order to escape iris scans, and let’s not forget Vincent in GATTACA having to go through extreme morning rituals to make sure none of his own DNA is picked up by the Hoovers.
Already today there are some interesting products that claim to protect your privacy from “Big Brother.” There’s the software you can load onto a USB storage device making your Internet activities not only encrypted, but portable to any computer you happen to use (you can put it together yourself or buy one through Paypal). There’s Hide My Ass!, one of a group of websites that allow you to keep your IP address anonymous as well as visit sites your work or school may have blocked. And for people looking over your shoulder? You may want to check out Ghostzilla which quickly makes any webpage you look at appear as part of a regular computer application.
So if these are the lengths we’re already going to in order to ensure you keep your privacy, what might we see in the future?
DNA Altering — Fingerprint removal is so 90’s (Se7en, Men in Black), and with DNA evidence able to be pulled from just about anything, getting rid of your fingerprints just isn’t what it’s cracked up to be anymore. In fact, even if you manage to burn off your fingerprints, chances are the scars that are left will be unique in themselves which means you’re still out of luck. Already we’re seeing DNA evidence going through such scrutiny that even the slightest difference in DNA down to just a few different nucleotides might be enough to convince a jury of a person’s innocence. That’s where DNA altering comes in. With about 95% of what makes up DNA classified as Junk DNA, chances are messing around with a few nucleotides isn’t going to kill you or make you grow an extra leg. But if it does, at least you won’t be found guilty.
Off the Grid — If you were really paranoid you could live off the grid. Chances are that while most cities in the world advance to a point where everything is monitored, there will still be areas where it won’t be the case. Montana, Michigan, Alaska and Oregon may find themselves the refuge for people wishing to remain anonymous. It may even get to the point where these states will set up specific laws protecting privacy in order to encourage people to move there. Oregon is sales-tax free, why not security-cam free? Of course the government may reduce federal funding to such states in order to force them to comply, much like they did with lowering the drinking age and their funding for state roads.
Protective Clothing — What ski masks do for cameras today, devices like this may soon evolve to do the same thing. Your phone could act as a camera-jammer, making you appear as a fuzzy spot on any camera pointed at you (make sure to turn it off for family photos). Your clothing itself could be designed to change color for cameras as well as attract any dead skin cells your body sheds during the day so you don’t leave a trail of DNA wherever you go. Your shoes could be programmed to change their outward size so footprints become unreliable, hats could change logos between a hundred different sports teams, and glasses could include a holographic display which make your eyes seem to change color.
Personal Data Miners — Instead of virus’ attacking websites for the purpose of shutting them down and wreaking havoc, you may be able to hire someone to create a virus to protect your privacy. All data logged by websites about you and your habits (shopping, visits, social habits) could be wiped out by your own personal virus. Even government files about you might be susceptible to being erased — your Social Security Number (if Social Security still exists in the future) and tax info would be the only thing remaining. Nothing would come back to you, the hacker lives in Serbia and you made sure the money couldn’t be tracked back to you. Everything about you could be reset back to zero.
Privacy Terrorists — With privacy lovers feeling helpless to stop the wave of technology invading our lives (facial recognition software, iris scans, security cams), they may decide that going to the courts is useless (it is) and take matters into their own hands. Whereas the Earth Liberation Front fights crimes against nature, a new group may be formed specifically targeting electronic devices. Security cameras would be shot, iris-scanning billboards would be smashed, and websites would be hacked and erased. Any threat perceived by these groups as an invasion of their privacy might fall victim to a violent attack.
Image: Cornelius Bartke (Flickr, CC-Attribution)