Reading Doctorow’s Little Brother has definitely brought my attention to digital privacy. One of the reasons why Little Brother is such a thought-provoking dystopia is that the novel uses contemporary technology in modern-day San Francisco which gives its readers the sense that they may actually be living in a similar dystopia not too far in the future whereas it’s difficult to put myself in the shoes of Aria in Under the Never Sky because I don’t live in a post-apocalyptic world in an augmented reality controlled by the government.
Digital privacy is becoming an increasingly controversial topic, especially now that President Donald Trump has signed a law that loosens the restrictions on what internet service providers could do with the data they collect. Due to the lack of competition among internet service providers and the fact that internet is practically a necessity now, there isn’t really a convenient way to avoid having data collected on you, and most people wouldn’t go out of their way to prevent data from being collected on them.
I will admit I do not fully understand what the consequences of this law will be, but after reading Little Brother, I think it’s safer to side with the individual consumers than the big data companies. There is something uncomfortably invasive about the idea of having data being collected on you and then sold, even if it’s just to advertisers. Little Brother has also drawn my attention to how difficult it can be to protect your digital information from being collected if restrictions aren’t put in place. Most people understandably don’t understand what happens behind their computer screens and are easy prey for businesses that want to sell their information. In Little Brother, if people wanted to access the internet while protecting their privacy, someone who understood how the technology worked like Marcus had to figure out a countermeasure and then teach it to everyone first. A similar series of steps must occur already in the real world for internet users to protect themselves. First they have to learn about the potential threat in the first place. Then the majority of them will have to hope someone else has created a tutorial for a countermeasure. Realistically, most people won’t go through all that trouble, so I think it’s the responsibility of the lawmakers to protect citizens from being taken advantage of.
Doctorow, Cory. Little Brother. Tom Doherty Associates, 2008.
Rossi, Veronica. Under the Never Sky. HarperCollins, 2012.