The Truman Show – a foreshadow of Social Media, YouTube and loss of Privacy

I watched the  ‘The Truman Show” today – and it absolutely fascinated me, even though I had seen it before, years ago.  This movie, made in 1998, is about Truman, (played by Jim Carrey), whose entire life is captured by thousands of tiny cameras in a giant, landmass-size, TV studio environment, in which every aspect is controlled. The length of the fictitious show spans Truman’s entire life, 30 + years.  Throughout most of the film, Truman does not realize he is a world wide TV sensation, nor does he realize  that every moment of his life is being filmed by these thousands of tiny cameras, which are placed everywhere in his environment.

Watching this movie in 2016 provides compelling foreshadowing of what now exists. ‘The Truman Show’,  forecasts the coming YouTube, Social Media and the loss of expectation of privacy. Although the movie portrayed these factors on a singular basis (only Truman himself was being filmed unknowingly),  the concept of ‘The Truman Show’ is multiplied by the billions in real life today. Instead of one Truman, we are all “Stars”.  We all watch each other, and we all rate each other about the smallest aspects of our lives on Social Media and YouTube.  Like Truman, cameras are completely ubiquitous in most modern environments, and further, data collection is also ubiquitous.

In the movie, Truman himself is constantly and unknowingly being used as an advertisement vehicle; people he interacts with guide him to stand directly in front of advertisements during interactions; and characters (like his phony wife), are constantly plugging various products in their verbal interactions with him. Those advert clips are then used to sell the actual product to everyone else in the world who watches and loves Truman. To me, this advertising model foreshadows both Facebook and Youtube. Just like Truman, we are the products for the real customers of the video and social media sites –  the Ad agencies.

Although, we do have a step up on Truman because we often knowingly post our information, photos and videos, we are still much like Truman in the fact that we don’t fully understand or control how that information is being used – or how it could be used against us.

We are being tracked like Truman. At one point in the movie, Truman’s car stereo glitches out and he hears all of the studio crew tracking his movements and turns as he drives his car. Fast forward to modern day – Applications on our Smart phones track us. Many times, like Truman, we don’t know we are being tracked.  The parallels here are just too strong to be ignored, which is why I felt compelled to share. We are all Truman to one degree or another.

Ok… Changing gears for a moment, there is another, more recent British program which was a as equally compelling: episode three of ‘Black Mirror – the Entire History of You’ . This show makes a darker prediction with regards to the collection and use of our data, both by ourselves and by others. The story takes place in our future – and in a world where everything you see, (think Google Glass), everything you say and do is recorded onto a neural implant from your first person perspective. The data can then be used for later recall and playback by yourself and others. I don’t want to ruin the plot….  This Black Mirror episode is very compelling and is a must-watch for any InfoSec Pro – or anyone with an interest in privacy.

No matter how great and powerful the technology, human life can never be measured by the data we collect; and there are aspects of our lives that need to remain private and sacred. We as human beings, (even those of us who love technology) understand there a far deeper meaning to our existence than the data we create; and therefore we must hold on to that sacred part of us. It’s not for sale.




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