Dystopia Is Upon Us. Are You Ready?

By Courtney Coonrod

The year is 2022. Robot dogs roam the streets beside police officers, a decentralized currency is revolutionizing the economy, digital citizenship and e-governments are emerging, jobs are being automated, and billionaires are commercializing space as Earth faces a record-breaking climate crisis.

When you zoom out, it’s easy to see that American society is approaching a modern-day dystopia as the once sci-fi-worthy stories of environmental destruction, technological control, and loss of human rights and freedoms creep to fruition. But when you zoom back in, it’s not as obvious to see how these factors are impacting you on an individual level. The rapid growth and influence of technology, in particular, is taking control of your reality, and it can have a permanent impact on your personal identity.

Unprecedented events that have unfolded within the past few years have revealed the flaws and weaknesses of the US government and corporate America, whose actions have shown they don’t always have your best interests in mind. Therefore, it’s up to you to proactively adapt to this brave new world, starting with your everyday routine.

The eerie loss of individuality is looming right before your screen every time you passively press “accept” on a new privacy policy and turn a blind eye to why your data is being collected. While it's easy to ignore the data tracking that has become so commonplace, Caroline Hsu, the cofounder of Cyber Collective, an organization that champions data ethics, says those privacy popups seem “so inconsequential, but what we’ve historically seen with tech is that it starts very small and snowballs into something we didn't foresee.”

Although privacy advocates have been spreading awareness and fighting for regulations for decades, there has been very limited progress on data protection. The recently enacted California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) requires businesses to mandate Global Privacy Control, a tool that allows California citizens to easily exercise their privacy rights online, but the clock is ticking for other states to follow suit.

Jules Polonetsky, founder of the Future of Privacy Forum, an advocacy group that develops privacy protection for ethical business practices, warns that there is a risk for everything—including what you do, hear, and see—to be tracked and analyzed if governments don’t set boundaries on the types of data being collected and how it’s used. He advises that “we need a national privacy law that will set a baseline for responsible uses of data.”

Initiatives like Project Liberty and the Web3 Foundation are taking it upon themselves to build government-friendly tools and technologies that also protect personal data, guided by principles that let individuals own their data and understand when they’re granting access to it and why. Simultaneously, advocacy organizations and privacy-focused companies are introducing data privacy tools and resources that you can use right now. For example, switching to browsers that have made privacy a central feature, such as Brave and DuckDuckGo, will defend you from site trackers and filtered search results, and switching from WhatsApp to Signal or Telegram will keep your activity encrypted and private. Privacy management platform Elroi can even show where your data fits into the larger ecosystem and is currently developing ways for you to control that data.