The year is 2056. SinguClarity is an international data collection conglomerate. Their database storage warehouses span over 175 square kilometers in various locations on the planet and they have won countless corporate and government bids to facilitate, store, and collect personal data on an estimated 68% of the world’s total population. This includes purchasing behavior, medical records, private correspondence and a textured behavioral analysis of individuals’ social media posting habits both in substance and form. Joris Landau, an upstart freethinker journalist for a prominent New York publication pens a meticulously researched article deriding SinguClarity as one of the greatest menaces to public life and human rights, prompting a series of strategic marketing responses from the company.
One such effort is a retail product intended to demonstrate the tremendous social benefits of widespread data collection. The product is a marketed as “The Dossier,” a comprehensive packets and sells for $299.99 in US markets. Using all available data on individuals (which can range widely in scope, as it specified on the company’s retail-facing website), an individual’s Dossier details all available information on a purchaser’s personality and tailored recommendations for self improvement. The Dossier can also be paired with a DNA test for an additional fee of $15.99.
Joris Landau, along with other prominent detractors of The Dossier, purchase their own copies in an effort to publicize the kind of information available within one. Landau reports that his Dossier describes him as “brooding, temperamental and weighted down by feelings of scorn from loved ones or respected persons. A tendency towards flights of imagination, personal strife in relationships, and mildly lactose intolerant.” Landau takes his public denunciation of the Dossier on a national reading tour. His primary critiques are about both the irrelevance and overdeterminism of the product. Over the course of his national tour, he opens himself up to a series of scrutinizing televised interviews where it is later revealed that Landau has conflated both his own Dossier and one that he purchased without permission about his ex-girlfriend Lindsey Anselvisc. Anselvisc, an Iowa poet laureate and first year assistant professor of English literature at Syracuse, was unaware that Landau knew her social security number, as this was all that was necessary to successfully purchase her Dossier. After a brief social media exchange, termed a “battle” by some score-keeping popular news outlets, Anselvisc sequestered herself from all media coverage, obtained the representation of a prominent DC law firm and sued SinguClarity for violation of her human right to privacy. Her complaint quickly becomes a class-action suit which, after 36 months, she wins. SinguClarity agrees to pay an undisclosed sum to the class and the company is required to convey opt-out forms to all of their patrons, subscribers, and collectees.
Landau is asked to leave his prominent publication which he strenuously objects to. After prolonged posturing, Landau is able to obtain seed money and starts a successful media outlet called The Long Haul which has a self stated libertarian agenda and promises advanced content from a book thesis that Landau is developing on the credulity of “five finger feminism,” a term the self-styled author claims to have coined.