Predictions 2017.2 – Marion Oswald

November 30, 2016

{b}The Secret Life of a 40-something year old{/b}

Dear Diary

2017 has been a tiresome year so far. Take yesterday for instance. I went into my bank to enquire about a loan. I thought it would be nice to speak to someone for a change, but it took me ages to explain what I wanted to the ‘bank bot’ and when a young man finally appeared, he spent the first 15 minutes tapping away at his iPad before telling me that my profile was causing some concerns.

‘What do you mean?’ I asked.

‘Well,’ he said rather evasively, ‘you’re coming up as a cautious introvert with little or no social circle but with an interest in the alternative music scene. Your travel profile shows that you drive regularly at unsocial hours. All this makes you a high credit risk I’m afraid.’

I was confused. I’m married, I have two children, I have lots of friends – I’m not on Facebook though. I am probably quite cautious but shouldn’t that be a good thing? The nearest I’ve been to an ‘alternative’ music venue was a day trip to Brighton in the summer. My sister likes that sort of stuff however. I always buy her a CD for Christmas (I know, it’s a bit old-fashioned) – she tells me what to get. And as for late night driving, it’s only up the road to the care home where my father lives to check he’s alright, what with the budget cuts and all. Maybe I’ll install a secret camera instead.

I went away rather deflated, I can tell you. Where did they get all that information and who is it that decides that I’m a ‘cautious introvert’ with no friends? The young man wouldn’t tell me.

Then it was on to the doctors. There was a bit of kerfuffle when the iris-scanner at the entrance kept flashing up ‘identity unknown’ and wouldn’t let me in. I sat for 30 minutes in the waiting room next to the ‘personalised communication screen’ which kept flashing up adverts for dating sites. I finally got to see the G.P. who said that someone would be observing. I said that was ok and two smiley young women with clip-boards came in. When it came to the examination, the doctor drew the curtain around the bed, but I could still hear the young women talking (and I suppose they could still hear us). They seemed to talking about whether I’d make ‘good casting’.

‘What’s going on?’ I said when I emerged. ‘Oh, didn’t you see the signs,’ they said. ‘We’re filming today for ‘The Secret Life of the Surgery’. There’s a motion-activated fixed rig in all the rooms.’

‘What, even behind the curtain?’ I said. ‘Oh yes,’ they said, ‘but don’t worry. We wouldn’t show it unless you agree, or we could blur your face on the broadcast so no-one would know it was you.’

I wasn’t reassured by this – it sounded just as effective (or should I say ineffective) as the curtain.

‘We’d really like to feature you,’ they continued, ‘Twitter loves a hard luck case.’

‘What do you mean?’ I asked.

‘Well,’ they said rather evasively, ‘it says that you’re a cautious introvert with little or no social circle.’

I give up, I thought. Who am I to tell it any different (whatever ‘it’ may be)? Nothing is secret any more.

{b}{i}Marion Oswald is a Senior Fellow in Law and Head of the Centre of Information Rights at the University of Winchester. She has recently co-authored ‘The not-so-secret life of five year olds’ and organises the annual Conference on Trust, Risk, Information & the Law which in 2017 will focus on artificial decision-making, machine-learning and AI. @_UoWCIR @IRPandPJournal{/b}{/i}