The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

If you want a can't-miss exhibit of how illusory your privacy is, pick up the upcoming June issue of Reason magazine. The cover story, "Database Nation: The Upside of Zero Privacy" by Declan McCullagh, lays out all the ways that existing compiled information already tells anyone interested all about you, from a general demographic level all the way down to your personal data. McCullagh presents this in a beneficial light; you can decide for yourself.

The cover story is just the tip of the iceberg, though:
As subscribers pull the June Reason magazine out of their mailbox, something about the issue should look familiar. The magazine published 40,000 individualized covers displaying an aerial photo of the subscriber's home and the surrounding neighborhood.

Inside, the personalization continues. Subscribers can find out how many of their neighbors are college educated and what percentage of kids in their zip code are being raised by their grandparents. An ad for the Institute for Justice shows the number of eminent domain cases in their state where private property was seized and given to private developers. And an ad for the Marijuana Policy Project tells subscribers whether their congressman voted to stop federal raids on medical marijuana clubs in states where they're legal, says Reason Editor-in-Chief Nick Gillespie.

"Living in a database nation raises innumerable privacy concerns," writes Gillespie in the June issue. "But it also makes life easier and more prosperous. We may have kissed privacy goodbye -- and good riddance, too."
I applaud Reason for some terrifically inspired editorial initiative with this June issue. Nothing breaks through the media clutter better than this in-your-face approach that hits a reader (literally) where s/he lives.

What really makes this unique is that it's so suited to the print format, in a way that it wouldn't translate as well into any sort of electronic medium, online included. Having an entire bound magazine in your hands, knowing that it was mass-produced yet still containing so much content aimed directly at you, leaves a powerful impression. This whole print package is also an extremely valuable and enticing concept to offer advertisers, especially the microtargeting. I'm quite envious.

(Via Hearts and Dreams)