November 28th: The future of privacy
OverSharing
, by Andrew Vrana

After the first hour of waiting for the doctor Kieva began to wish she had scheduled an appointment. She had fallen asleep in her invitingly comfortable armchair last night (something she was increasingly prone to) and, upon waking up with her tablet in her hands, had immediately gone to the eHealth Webdr site. Apparently 8 a.m. wasn’t early enough anymore to beat the millions of patients who clogged the site around midday.

She sat in the giant chair and stared at the virtual waiting room on her tablet’s screen. It was drab and colorless, with nothing but a few outdated articles to help those in line pass the time; once you were in the queue using your tablet for anything but waiting could forfeit your place in line for that day, and she certainly didn’t want to risk that.

Without reading the titles, Kieva tapped a link at random, and a smaller window popped up with an article. “According to a recent study,” someone named RedCum287 had written, “the average American appears online about 200,000 times in images and videos. Most of these appearances are attributed to security footage stored on private servers and unavailable to the public…”

Kieva wondered with mild interest how many pictures and videos of her were online. Surely it was well above the national average; she was proud of her prolific posting on OverShare.

“Kieva.”

The article window disappeared and the virtual waiting room was visible for an instant before it too disappeared, being replaced by a slightly wrinkly male’s face topped with neatly-chopped gray hair. “Hello Kieva, I’m Dr. Ellison-929. I’ll be examining you today.”

That name–and the fact that the face on the screen was a computer-generated avatar–meant the doctor was an AI. Great, Kieva thought, I’m up at 8 and I still don’t get a human. The credentials below his name, though, did indicate the AI had a medical certification, so that was something.

“Please state your symptoms and conditions,” Dr. Ellison-929 said in a flat tone.

“There’s this burning in my stomach and chest,” Kieva explained. “Like bad indigestion, but it’s constant. And there’s this lump in my throat that won’t go away. It’s been going on for two weeks.”

“Do you have a public body profile?”

“Who doesn’t?” she said. Then, realizing what she was talking to, she clarified, “Yes.”

“Please update your profile now,” the doctor said, showing no sign that he had noticed anything she had said about her condition.

Pulling up a second window, Kieva said, “Go to: bodyfile dot gov.” The blank page turned into a picture of her own naked body on a white background. The way the profile’s eyes stared blankly at nothing always made her cringe; she diverted her gaze to the stats, noting without much interest that her profile had been viewed about a thousand times in the two weeks since her last update (probably a good portion had been from uncertified AI doctors and phenotype artists trawling for easy patients). She removed her shirt, the only piece of clothing she had on, tapped the “Update” button and sat back, hanging her tablet in the wall stand in front of her. Half a minute went by, the red light from her tablet’s 360-degree inside-out camera flashing her eyes several times, before the scan was complete and her profile was updated.

“All done,” she said as she grabbed her tablet and brought the doctor’s face back up.

“I will use the profile of your body scan to remotely diagnose you,” Dr. Ellison-929 said. “For legal reasons I will change your view so you see what I see.”

Briefly his gray emotionless face was replaced by her own tangled mane of brown hair and tired eyes, then she was looking at her newly-updated body profile, which, she was a little relieved to notice, had taken liberties to make her look less like she had just woken up; she made a mental note to add the new profile to her OverShare later. The doctor zoomed in on the profile’s face until her mouth filled the tablet’s screen; the mouth opened, and the doctor delved inside until they were looking at the glistening redness of her esophagus.

“Swelling,” the doctor said. “Inflammation.”

The profile returned to a full-body view before shifting towards her lower body. The screen rotated so that the profile’s feet went upward. The legs spread wide, and the shot zoomed in shamelessly right between her thighs.

“It’s my throat, doctor,” Kieva said, not embarrassed but hesitant to take a trip into her own colon. “You’re a little too low.”

“This is necessary–for the sake of thoroughness.”

Surely you don’t have to be that thorough, Kieva thought.

As the view on the screen went inside the profile’s body and slowly snaked its way up into her large intestine, Kieva squinted but continued watching in grotesque fascination. The doctor needed a whole minute before he was satisfied.

“Everything is fine here,” he said as his avatar face came back on the screen. “You have symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease. I will transfer you to a specialist who can officially diagnose you; the current wait is two hours for the transfer.”

Kieva knew her cry of protest would go unanswered by the AI: responding to anger or disdain usually went against their programming.

“Thank you for your patience,” Dr. Ellison-929 said, ignoring her. “eHealth Webdr would like to use your OverShare profile to share photos of your examination with the world.”

Twenty or so thumbnails popped up to obscure the lower half of the doctor’s face. Glancing through them, Kieva found that in some of the pictures she couldn’t tell the difference between her esophagus and rectum.

“Do you agree?” the doctor asked.

“No,” Kieva said emphatically: there was no telling what an AI-run site would do without regards to her privacy.

Half an hour later, while waiting for the specialist, Kieva decided to risk losing her place in line to get on OverShare; she had a new public body profile and she simply couldn’t wait to share it.

*

Andrew Vrana decided he wanted to be a writer after taking a creative writing class in college, so he changed his major from Biochemistry to Literature. That decision may not have been financially wise in terms of post-college career options, but at least he loves what he is doing. Andrew enjoys writing speculative fiction with a strong focus on sci-fi. You can read more of his work by visiting his personal blog at AndrewVrana.WordPress.com


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