Privacy and Security TidBits

Privacy and Data Protection: A Super Sad True Love Story

Meet Lenny Abramov:

“ZIP code 10002, New York, New York. Income averaged over five-year-span, $289,420, yuan-pegged, within top 19 percent of U.S. income distribution. Current blood pressure 120 over 70. O-type blood. Thirty-nine years of age, lifespan estimated at eighty three (47 percent lifespan elapsed; 53 percent remaining). Ailments: high cholesterol, depression. Born: 11367 ZIP code, Flushing, New York. Father: Boris Abramov, born Moscow, HolyPetroRussia; Mother: Galya Abramov, born Minsk, Vassal State Belarus. Parental ailments: high cholesterol, depression. Aggregate wealth: $9,353,000 non-yuan-pegged, real estate, 575 Grand Street, Unit E-607, $1,150,000 yuan-pegged. Liablities: mortgage $560,330. Spending power: $1,200,000 per year, non-yuan-pegged. Consumer profile: heterosexual, nonathletic, nonautomotive, nonreligious, non-Bipartisan. Sexual preferences: low-functioning Asian/Korean and White/Irish American with Low Net Worth family background; child abuse indicator: on; low self-esteem indicator: on. Last purchases: bound, printed, nonstreaming Media artifact, 35 norther Euros; bound, printed, nonstreaming Media artifact, $126 yuan-pegged; bound, printed, non-streaming Media artifact, 37 northern euros.”

This is Lenny’s profile that the people who inhabit Gary Shteyngart‘s latest novel “Super Sad True Love Story” can freely view on their äppärät.

The novel is set in a near future New York, where everyone walks around with an äppärät around his/her neck, constantly streaming. The streets are lined with Credit Poles, that instantly register and exhibit each passerby’s credit rating from his/her äppärät and giant banners that proclaim: “America celebrates its spenders”. Huge conglomerates named ColgatePalmoliveYum!BrandViacomCredit and AlliedWasteCVSCitigroupCredit call the shots.

At work, there are huge billboards, where each employee’s  health data and mood status are displayed and adjusted daily.

People (with the notable exception of the protagonist, Lenny Abramov) don’t read books anymore, but just scan texts for info.

This world is divided into two categories: The HNWIs (high net worth individuals) and the LNWIs (low net worth individuals). Many LNWIs have lost their homes, their jobs, their health insurance and are camping out in tent cities in Central Park. They don’t even own äppäräts. Riots are about to break out.

Meanwhile, the HNWIs are busy shopping on their äppäräts on sites like AssLuxury. They communicate through a social network site called GlobalTeens. They obsessively  GlobalTrace each other’s locations. Men and women  gauge each other in bars by streaming their Personality, F**kability, Male Hotness and Sustainability ratings on their äppäräts. Detailed sexual preferences are instantly revealed.

And of course, the Governement, via the “American Restauration Authority”, keeps a close eye on all its citizens via those very same äppäräts. It sends regular global messages via the äppäräts, always ending with:”By reading this message, you are denying its existence and implying consent.”

At the center of this darkly satirical novel, a genuine and moving love story unfolds between Lenny and the much younger, e-culturally hip Eunice Park.

While reading Super Sad True Love Story, I was struck by how accurately Shteyngart has depicted most of the current issues concerning loss of privacy: Government Surveillance, Profiling, Geotracking, Global tracking, Legalese Nonsensical Disclaimers, Hyper-Sexualization,  Sub-Literacy are exposed with great wit.  Financial and private health information are not protected and are publicly showcased to favor the young, the healthy, the wealthy and the polyanna-happy.

This novel  is a frightening and powerful description of what will happen to us as a society if we don’t take drastic action NOW to halt the increasing erosion of our privacy by the public and private sector alike.

I love my privacy and would not want it to end the way a super sad true love story always does.