The Private Eye: What's Privacy Worth, Anyway? [Close Read]

December 4, 2015

The Private Eye: What's Privacy Worth, Anyway? [Close Read]

When a story is described as "resonant," the idea is that some aspect of the story resonantes with the readership—it rings a bell or feels real because it reflects some part of the reader's lived experience. Resonance is why you listen to Beyoncé's "Best Thing I Never Had" when you're thinking about your ex, or crank Waka Flocka Flame's "Hard In Da Paint" as high as it'll go to get psyched up right before a big game. Something in those songs strikes a nerve with you, reminding you of better times or the good times you've got available to you. Resonance can be crucial for making a connection to a work of art.

THE PRIVATE EYE is set after the cloud—that thing that holds all your selfies and music and texts and online order histories—bursts. That burst transformed our world from one where a person can be as anonymous as they'd like to be to one where your deepest secrets are laid out plain as day for anyone to see. What's a person to do? In THE PRIVATE EYE, the answer are guises and nyms, alternate disguises and identities you use to create something like true anonymity. You may not want to hit that exotic club wearing your real face and using your actual identity, but with a skeleton mask and another name, you're good to go, right?

Privacy is a vital aspect to how we live, but also something we trade in exchange for convenience. How many people depend on Facebook to let them know when their friends have birthdays? Do you dig deep into Netflix's recommendations to find something to watch late at night? Have Amazon's algorithms ever suggested something to you that you ended up falling in love with? That's possible because you were willing to share something—your queue, your wish list, your purchase history, your life—with the companies in question. It allows them to serve you better, but it erodes your privacy at the same time. Instead of just you and the clerk knowing how much you love b-movies, now you, Amazon, and anyone who can see your wish list knows, too.

Is it worth it? It depends on how much value you place in the idea of privacy. If sharing what you do is no big deal to you, then it's a great deal. If you treasure your privacy, then it's a tougher conversation. The convenience is great, but as we've all seen, it's all too easy for a company's database to be mined and leaked, putting you at risk of identity theft.

THE PRIVATE EYE posits a world where privacy is a foregone conclusion. We had it, we lost it, and now we're in a different world. Some people accept the new status quo, while others struggle to find a way to keep who they are as close to their vests as they can. THE PRIVATE EYE isn't a cautionary tale so much as a "what if?"

More than anything, however, it's just a good old-fashion quality comic, the kind of book that's set in the future but relevant to today, and well worth whiling away an evening on. It'll strike a nerve and get you thinking.

THE PRIVATE EYE: THE CLOUDBURST EDITION is on sale now.