“Privacy is dead. That’s why Snowden failed at the box office”

December 1, 2017

By: Dr. Peyman Askari

My favorite book as a child was George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four. I absolutely loved how Orwell created an Ideology based on contradiction and how his story telling contributed sense to this contradiction. It is no surprise, then, that when I found myself face to face with a salesman from the biometric space I asked him if he felt bad for facilitating the reach of Big Brother. “I’m not worried about Big Brother”, I remember him saying, “I’m worried about Big Business”.

I have been in the biometric space for close to four years now and it is amazing how public perception of facial recognition has changed in the interim. When we started out, the term “facial recognition” was as taboo as tobacco whereas now large companies such as Facebook, Google and Apple all apply it out in the open. Part of this acceptance comes from a new generation which chooses to embrace change rather than to reject it. However, I suspect there is another more important reason for this.

“Privacy is dead”, my friend once told me, “That’s why Snowden failed at the box office”. “No one cares about privacy anymore”. In a world where people openly solicit sexual services from one another through platforms such as Tinder, citing privacy concerns related to facial recognition in light of such activities is akin to slamming agriculture for threatening hunting/gathering activities when the world is lining up for the new iPhone X.

Most people who ask me how I feel about privacy issues are in actuality trying to avoid an awkward silence which might make them look unknowledgeable about facial recognition. I always provide them with some counter arguments and then I hit them with a “No one cares about privacy anymore”. To me, clinging on to any notions of invasions of personal privacy brought about by facial recognition is as anachronistic as lashing out at a photographer for stealing someone’s soul.

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