Personal Protection

Report from the Futurist

Futurist

Perri 6 (yes, that's his real name, which he legally adopted roughly 20 years ago: "I thought 'Perri 1' would be arrogant," he explains), 38, director of policy and research at Demos, a think tank based in London.

Scenario

"The future of privacy is one of the most crucial issues facing business and society. One way people will guard their privacy is through consumer-owned, multifunctional smart cards. Instead of letting a bank issue you a smart card — on which it then sells space to other companies — you will go to a store and say, 'I'd like a couple of blank cards with 256K cryptography keys and a couple with 512K keys.' You can put your e-cash and your subway information on the basic card, and your medical history on the card with greater encryption. You'll treat smart cards like floppy disks — and you, not the issuer, will control which data reside on which card."

So What?

"What's new about today's economy is that we produce and manipulate personal information on an industrial scale. Personal data are the fuel of the modern economy."

Futurology Decoder Key

"When I think about the future, I use the test of 'cultural viability.' It's sociologically, historically, and politically illiterate to imagine that just because personal data are so important, people will put aside a value like privacy. I look for a civilized compromise between values and economics."

You can visit Demos on the Web www.demos.co.uk .

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