Privacy and Class

Mark Pesce:

A colleague was recently required to spend 10 days in a public-health-mandated quarantine after authorities used credit card receipts to determine he’d visited a location that had also hosted a known coronavirus case.

Had he paid in cash they would never have found him at all because he’d also been slack and not signed into the establishment where he was potentially exposed using the requisite QR code.

Fortunately, they found him. Even more fortunately, he hadn’t been infected. As he waited out his quarantine, he meditated on how he’d been poked by the pointy end of the continuing argy-bargy between public health and personal privacy – realising that his data trail gave anyone who bothered to look a complete snapshot of his private life.

Is there anywhere left to hide, he wondered?

In the years since Eric Schmidt declared “Privacy is dead!”, we’ve endured a continuous digital erosion of our private space. Smartphones tracking our location, apps profiling our interactions, smart speakers feeding our conversations into recommendation algorithms, CCTV cameras running facial recognition – and much, much more. Sometimes it can feel as though the battle for even a little bit of privacy has already been lost.