Black Mirror Illustrates The Importance of Digital Privacy
One of the themes of Black Mirror is the frightening ways technology is affecting our lives. Black Mirror appears to be set in some dystopian future, however many of the issues the characters face are exaggerated versions of current privacy and technology issues.
Netflix released Bandersnatch, an interactive episode related to Black Mirror, and then tracked the viewing behavior of the people that watched it.
Episodes Related to Privacy Issues
The premise of this episode is that there is a chip technology called “Arkangel” which lets parents monitor their children and censor certain images that would cause their children distress. The mother in the episode, Marie, is afraid of something happening to her daughter Sara, so she signs up for a free trial of Arkangel. While the system is initially successful, some flaws lead to some serious problems. For example, when Sara’s grandfather has a stroke, he is censored so she cannot hear him telling her to call for help, and he ends up dying.
The Entire History of You
In “The Entire History of You” people have devices implanted in them that monitors and records everything they experience. People can then play back any part of their lives. While people are willing to use the technology, it ends up revealing some ugly truths about people and their behavior. This episode reveals possible outcomes of constant surveillance and the consequences of losing control of the information gathered by these surveillance systems.
Shut Up and Dance
In Shut Up and Dance, a hacker captures people’s secrets and blackmails them by making them perform a series of tasks, each growing more disturbing and extreme.
This episode illustrates how far people will go to keep their technology use private, and how sensitive the information a hacker accesses can be.
Hated in the Nation
This episode addresses social media and people inciting violence on these platforms. A hacker then gains access to bee-like drones and uses them to kill people.
“I think that social media is an amazing invention and really I suspect what needs to happen is that we just as a species get better at dealing with it and comprehending the etiquette of it and appreciating the fact that everyone on there is a real human being and that you could gravely upset someone with the things you’re saying and doing.I’m generally against legislation against free speech but I can see it’s a massive problem when you’ve got people who are going out of their way with targeted abuse. It’s a very difficult thing to deal with. I don’t know the answer. I don’t know the answer!
People should be more accountable for what they say. It’s just difficult to see how you do that without the law getting involved. I think it’s like we’ve evolved an extra limb – social media is just like we haven’t worked out how to walk with three legs yet – we just keep banging into the walls.”Charlie Brooker, Interview with The Debrief
Black Mirror, like many science fiction shows and movies, provides very relevant commentary for issues currently impacting society. These episodes provide a clear depiction of what the world could look like in the very near future, and it’s concerning because the negative aspects aren’t far from how things are right now.