Since advertising has failed to pay the bills for most websites, surveillance has become the standard business model for the internet. As security expert Bruce Schneier puts it, “We build systems that spy on people in exchange for services. Corporations call it marketing.” While Joe Esposito recently highlighted some of the more benign aspects of living in the Panopticon, I still have my doubts. But no one can say they didn’t see this coming. This 1990 article from the Wall Street Journal warned of potential issues stemming from Lotus selling customer information (on discs, no less).
Even more prescient though, was the great television series The Rockford Files, starring the inimitable James Garner, inspiration for countless attempts at funny answering machine messages and the first place I ever heard of sucker punching someone with a roll of quarters in your fist. Back in 1978, Rockford investigated a sleazy private company building a secret computer facility to spy on people and use their personal data against them. If only we’d listened.
(bonus points for a guest starring appearance by none other than Dr. Johnny Fever, Howard Hesseman)