Futures Salon: “The Privacy Ring”

Our topic will be “The Privacy Ring.”  We will be considering the future effects and implications of the concept design for the Me.Ring.

Me.Ring is basically a connected switch that you wear on your finger. When you’re open to your data being collected (from your face, your location, or just about anything else you can imagine), you switch it on. When you want to stay anonymous, you switch it off. The ring is essentially an Incognito Mode for real life, a means to opt out of your actions being recorded and analyzed forever.

Tonight we will be using a futures wheel, a framework for thinking through the potential consequences and effects of a change. We will frame how a change will produce first order consequences, the second order consequences based on those, and the third order consequences based on those.

We open with the observation that the world seems to be moving towards a surveillance state, where facial detection and tracking are becoming more and more the norm. Will law enforcement or legal environments allow this technology to exist? For our discussion tonight, we will focus on if the Me.Ring technology does exist in the future, what implications would we see?

Change: The Me.Ring technology is adopted in the future.

First order consequences: An active relationship with our data, forces us to understand our digital footprint, allows you to be nowhere at once, ability to hide/disappear, illegal to own from a law perspective, Big Five limits services to those with Me.Ring/terms of service excludes Me.Ring, only “haves” have access

Second order consequences will build below off of the first order consequences.

Illegal to own from a law perspective : Goes underground/dark web, tool of dissent/protest/crime, goes subcutaneous/implant

Active relationship with our data: Changes how we think about our digital footprint/relationship with tech companies, power of the “Big Five” firms diminishes

Big Five limits services to those with Me.Ring/terms of service excludes Me.Ring: reveals the “hypocrisy” of the “Big Five”

Ability to hide/disappear: “the right to be forgotten”, ability to receive unfiltered/unbiased information, inadvertent “vanishing” oneself (forget to turn off)

Forces us to understand our digital footprint: More data literacy of the traces we leave, understand how our data is used, demand placed on clear communication of data footprint

Third order consequences will build below off of the second order consequences.

More data literacy of the traces we leave: Data literacy in school curriculum

Tool of dissent/protest/crime: Digitally mediated silent protest (“data boycott”), “data kidnapping”/blackmail, criminals easier to “hide”, “Randomized You” (makes one undetected), society of “invisible people”

Goes subcutaneous/implant: black market surgery, becomes cultural sign

Power of the “Big Five” firms diminishes: “Big Five” business model under threat

Changes how we think about our digital footprint/relationship with tech companies: access/control over our data as a human right, society of “invisible people, like a passport/SS card

Understand how our data is used: Society of “visible people”/traffic in their data/data donators, “data surrogates”/having someone else’s data in place of my own

A few common things began to emerge: The State oversees these discussions and takes action vs. The “Big Five” imposing regulations and fighting this technology vs. The “Data Free Men” – a whole society of people “invisible people” vs. “Data surrogates”

“This was incredibly intellectually stimulating. What a hoot!” -Peter. And I fully agree. Thank you all for joining us this week. We will see you all next month!

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