“The truth is that I had everything to hide, and nothing.” (Doctorow 56)
Doctorow provides us with many interesting ideas in his novel; the one caught my attention the most is Marcus’s comparison between living without privacy and using the toilet in a glass room perched in the middle of Times Square, where people can see you naked for a while. While everyone goes to a bathroom, almost no one wants to share his or her nudity with others, simply because it is something private, something only belonging to our own life. Living under close surveillance is just as creepy as joining naked shows in public.
In a debate of privacy vs. security, perhaps one objection to keeping privacy from data mining is that if people have nothing to hide, nothing needs to be hidden. However, such a thesis is untenable and thus fallacious. Many people have long hold a misunderstanding of privacy, that what people are trying to hide is shameful, or even the proof that they are guilty since it looks stealthy, just as the severe haircut lady says, “honest people don’t have anything to hide” (Doctorow 49). But the truth is, something private doesn’t mean it’s illegal; or we should never write down our secrets and goofy thoughts in diaries because by doing this, we break the law. That’s also why Marcus is reluctant to unlock his phone for the DHS agents though he has nothing to do with the terrorist attack.
Constant surveillance is nothing new in today’s digital life, but before I read the novel, it never occurred to me that everything about us can be mined via different surveillance strategies. I felt even more unsettled when I thought of the likelihood that all those high-tech surveillance tools would become true and more widely used in the near future, and therefore it will be much easier for the government to keep an eye on each of our moves. While such development of technology is inevitable, I hope that the government still gives respect to our privacy, since it’s part of our own life that we don’t want others to see.