In this future, technology advances in such a way that privacy becomes obsolete. In other words, no one has decided to give up privacy, it's just that trying to hold onto it is like trying to keep the horse and buggy around when everyone else has cars - it's a losing battle and isn't going to work in the long run.

The basic technology that allows this is untraceable, stealth micro-drones. They can be created anonymously and cheaply using 3D-printer farms. Defenses are possible but don't work 100% of the time, so any person, place or system can be compromised eventually. These drones also allow remote physical access to computer systems, and therefore given time will also allow an attacker to bypass any computer security.

For the purpose of this question, assume that the absolute best security in the world (government w/unlimited resources) can only keep information secure for a maximum of 6 days.

This is too broad of a scenario for one question, so this one will specifically focus on Civilian Culture.

How would zero privacy impact culture - things like relationships, schooling, child-rearing, job hunts, etc.

Updates For comments/questions:

Edit: To keep things narrower, answers should be loosely based on Western (US/Canada/France/etc). But keep in mind that that's just the start point, not the end.

  1. I am looking for implications on a stable end state, not the transitionary phases.
  2. I will be asking other questions to follow up on Government (politics, corruption, crime & law enforcement, etc), on Military, and on Business. So this question is mostly about the various interpersonal relations - is that narrow enough or does it need to be reduced further?
  3. Drones aren't known to be able to defeat natural biological defenses yet (or rather, solutions to that problem aren't compatible with an effective drone). So thoughts and your internal body structure are safe, minus what a drone could obtain through most external scanning.
  4. Security defines how long it takes for an area to be compromised, but once it's compromised anything that happens after that point is known immediately. You can have a top secret facility that's totally secure, but as soon as you start to use it - information or physical objects moving in and out - you open up holes and the countdown starts.
  5. Everyone has access to the data - the big players with drones are all spying on each other, and can't keep the little players from spying on them. So all of the watchers are watching all the other watchers, anything from GoogleBook, to the NSA, to Jim down the street.
  6. Computing resources are sufficiently advanced that all incoming data can be scanned and evaluated.

Bounty: The big thing I'd like to see is more thought on the implications of this as a mature culture. I see a lot of answers that feel more like "how things would work if our cultures had zero privacy suddenly introduced", but I feel that if this has been around for a while expectations and values will shift. How will people and groups adjust?

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    $\begingroup$ Are your thoughts safe, or can the drones read those too? $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 31, 2015 at 15:48
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    $\begingroup$ en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Light_of_Other_Days $\endgroup$
    – user4239
    Commented Mar 31, 2015 at 17:23
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    $\begingroup$ Are you asking about the process of adjusting to no privacy, or the stable end state after this becomes commonplace? $\endgroup$
    – user4239
    Commented Mar 31, 2015 at 17:24
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    $\begingroup$ Also... I'm starting to think that this question should be closed as too-broad and individual facets asked separately. I know my answer suffered from too-much-being-crammed into it. $\endgroup$
    – user4239
    Commented Mar 31, 2015 at 18:12
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    $\begingroup$ Is everything observed by a micro-drone, or is everything observable? I.e. if I were to punch someone, is it possible that there were no micro-drones in line-of-sight at that exact moment, leaving it to my word against his? Or can they somehow find out that I did it within 6 days? $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 1, 2015 at 8:27

19 Answers 19


Disclaimer: a lot of ground on this was covered by "The Light of Other Days". I don't remember much of it so some of "my" ideas below are likely influenced by, or even unconsciously lifted from, Baxter. Mea slight culpa.

Please note that a LOT of the below can be summarized by two themes:

  • Increased trust due to ability to verify anything observable for truthfulness

  • Big Data

  1. Relationships:

    • The new stable equilibrum (once people learn how to deal with this) improves most relationships:

      • Since you have zero privacy, you have absolute trust.

        You KNOW your relationship partner isn't deceiving you in anything observable, large or small. This means less long term stress for you (no need to worry about cheating, or lack of effort), AND for them (they don't have as much temptation to cheat knowing they will 100% be caught). A more subtle benefit is that you know you HAVE trust - no more negative feelings over your partner imagining bad things you do and not trusting you when you say you didn't. No need to put in extra effort to SEEM trustworthy when you're already trustworthy.

      • Less envy. It's well known that people are always imagining that "grass is always greener", and others are better off - in part because you only see the best side they put off. No longer would someone need to be envious of their neighbour for having pretty GF, because I can observe that she is a slob in private and doesn't help him emotionally. No longer do they need to be envious of the big house when seeing that the cost is working half the night. Yes, humans are a lot less rational than that so not all envy disappears - but clearly right now we are biased to see other people's lives as better than they actually are.

    • Big Data: Imagine a dating site where you filter people by ALL details of their lives, and nobody can lie about themselves. PERFECT matchmaking (at least, compared to now). Find all women in the area who read Heinlein, Baxter, and Dawkings in the last year and logged on to StackExchange? And who don't have a messy apartment? DONE.

  1. Economy.

    Classical economists get their utopia. Perfect-information world. All the decisions that need to be made, are made with 100% information. No more asymmetrical markets. Less opportunity for cheating, arbitrage, substandard goods, etc...

    Plus, less need for expensive lawyers and investigations.

    All this makes the economy a LOT more efficient.

    Big Data: you can observe so many details about everything, you can likely adjust the economic behavior better for everyone.

  1. Schooling:

    Not really much change there academically, but some for the better:

    • Better school discipline, ideally (you can see 100% of bad things schoolchildren did, no more "who hit who first", less bullying).

    • Less cheating (teacher can observe you cheating).

    • However, as commenters noted, any testing that is based on "the main challenge to the student is in not knowing the question in advance" is rendered useless, since students always know questions in advance.

      Of course, the tactics to address that exist even today: large pool of qualitative questions randomly drawn for the test (you can't cram for only 3 of 100 questions that you know will be on the test, since you can pull any of 100); and parametrized quantitative questions whose exact #s are generated randomly for the exam (so it helps knowing the formulas and the methods, but you can't pre-compute the answer at home).

    • Big Data: you can observe so many details about the kids, you can likely adjust the teaching tactics/strategy to the individual pupil easier.

  1. Child-rearing

    Many benefits, some for reasons listed in "relationships" above.

    • Overall trust. Parent can trust their kid fully, knowing they have 100% way of verifying what the kids tell them. When one of my kids eats candy they aren't supposed to, I have proof who did it (right now they blame each other, and there's no good solution).

      It's known from studies that kids flourish when they know they are trusted by adults, and are given trust and responsibility.

    • I can trust a babysitter or other child care worker. No worries that they do shoddy job and I won't find out, or abuse the kids.

  2. Society overall

    • Less crime.

      • Many people commit crime because they think they can get away with it.

      • Plenty more commit the crime because the punishment is usually too light - and it is frequently too light because of the worry about Type 1 errors (convicting falsely accused).

      • Less corruption (includes extra benefit to economy).

      • Discrimination: there are pluses and minuses.

      On the plus side, it's nearly impossible to have organized coordinated discrimination. You can't confer with a fellow bigot in private and discuss unequally treating someone.

      On the negative side, you can no longer protect yourself from personal bigotry by merely keeping private. If someone dislikes homosexuals or Scientologists or Christians today, you can't simply boycott every store run by a homosexual/Scientologist/Christian person (or fail to promote an employee), because for vast majority of people you interact with you don't know what they do in private. In the new world, you DO know. Just don't say/do anything obvious to prove that this was the real reason.

  3. Better governance

    • Less corruption

    • Crowd-sourced control over quality of governance (Lots of little brothers watching you!). You can't do shady things - OR bad ineffective work - if people watch what you do.

    • Less "anti-society" crime: you can't plot to overthrow the government anymore (bye bye "revolutionary" groups killing people in the name of their ideology); you can't abuse people in your control because nobody can prove it; you can't pass corrupt laws as noted above. You can't defraud anyone - whether you're a CEO, government bureaucrat, or someone on welfare, doesn't matter.

    • Big Data: You can hopefully base governance decisions on better science.

      You can put some of social "sciences" on a more quantitative basis, instead of the squishy BS they are now. You have the whole mass of data, with no ethical concerns over collecting it since it's all EXISTING, and in "public domain". Large scale social experiments can be easily done merely from observing the proper subset of subjects.

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    $\begingroup$ Yeah, I think some of what you list as positives could also be negatives. For example, Point number four would be a huge boon to helicopter parents, but would suck for the kids. $\endgroup$
    – CoolCurry
    Commented Mar 31, 2015 at 22:21
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    $\begingroup$ You've painted a very rosy picture. Frankly, I disagree that no privacy would be good for relationships. With no privacy, it becomes impossible to maintain boundaries about what you let people know about you, and all of a sudden, a vast majority of everyone's relationships are toxic because people know too much about each other. This isn't about our current expectations about privacy, but rather about keeping some people, especially the toxic kind we can relatively easily cut out of our lives now, far away enough from you to maintain a healthy relationship. $\endgroup$
    – Kevin
    Commented Apr 1, 2015 at 0:39
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    $\begingroup$ -1 There is just so much wrong with this answer that I don't even know where to start. Fraud could still exist, as stopping fraud is about understanding, not knowledge. Same goes for a lot of corruption. Overthrowing governments would indeed be impossible, but the obvious consequence is not given in the answer, namely government misuse of it's power, because even if the population knows about it that's not going to allow them to stop it, as they don't have the power to do anything about it. And that's just considering point 7, don't feel like writing 6 more max-length comments. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 1, 2015 at 4:47
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    $\begingroup$ The flip side of "you can't plot overthrow of the government anymore" is of course that if the government is a horrible evil one like NK then there's literally nothing you can do about it. Every political dissident can be spotted and killed, every twitch of the face while listening to the glorious leader is recorded. In western societies social norms get locked in, it's no longer safe to be secretly part of an unpopular group in private. (example: Every trans person is outed.) Votes can't be kept secret, people who vote for the wrong side can be shunned or otherwise subjected to punishment $\endgroup$
    – Murphy
    Commented Apr 1, 2015 at 9:55
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    $\begingroup$ @JeromeJ: You want to downvote because you don't like the idea of zero privacy? It seems you misunderstand the idea of this site. Neither the question nor the answer make any claims about the desireability of such a world. The idea is simply to explore the implications of zero privacy, for fictional purposes. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 1, 2015 at 11:19

I noticed that most of the answers posed include a hand-wave to "you'd know everything", but this is actually not realistic, when you think about the prospect of being able to get any answer, know any thing.

Within current human consciousness, there is simply not enough bandwidth to know everything, even if the data were instantly available. As a result, you would only know the things you focused your attention upon.

That leaves us with a problem, while privacy is technically impossible, it is probably still practically possible for those who do not engage in any kind of act that would make them interesting enough to focus on.

  • $\begingroup$ Actually, my answer very clearly indicated "observable" as a limit :) $\endgroup$
    – user4239
    Commented Mar 31, 2015 at 18:47
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    $\begingroup$ Yes, and mine said 'most of the answers' :) You answer has the merit of naming Big Data as a possible means of overcoming the problem of too much information. Even so, I stand by my assertion that being able to know anything is not the same as knowing everything, $\endgroup$
    – gpeddle
    Commented Mar 31, 2015 at 18:56
  • $\begingroup$ Actually my answer implied someone had to bother looking up the information, and you could still hide in obscurity if no one bothered to look you up. $\endgroup$
    – bowlturner
    Commented Mar 31, 2015 at 19:47
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    $\begingroup$ Good point. It's not practical to assume that one could know every single bit of information available even if it were public. It is analogous to knowing every piece of information that is available on the internet. And like the internet, everything you'd want to know is available if you wanted to check for it. $\endgroup$
    – Neil
    Commented Apr 1, 2015 at 12:30
  • $\begingroup$ While it is an interesting point, this is not an answer to the original question. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 25, 2015 at 9:12

Let's start with the biggest changes. Assuming that the loss of privacy is fairly sudden (over the course of a few years, rather than decades or centuries):

Entertainment Industry would go bust

Television shows and movies would cease to be. Even if the television studio managed to film in secret, there only needs to be a single television viewer, and everyone in the world can watch his television, or watch the movie right off the movie screen... from the comfort of home.

Similarly, live theater and live music performances will lose out. Why pay good money for something you can watch for free? Of course, there will always be people who will pay, just to hang out with other fans, but there would be a noticeable drop.

Adult entertainment will lose almost 100%; why even bother digging through ads online, when you can watch real people in real situations whenever you want?

Sports will also suffer; people will still travel to go to games, but the money from television ads will be gone forever.

Of course, new entertainment venues would pop up - lists of who or what are interesting to watch, and the best times. Not that they would be able to charge any money for it. For once, piracy would have a legitimate impact on business!

The entertainment industry has a tremendous impact on culture, and the sudden loss of television, movies, even sports or music would have a huge impact.

Everyone would be a criminal

There aren't enough people to watch everyone all the time, but without an expectation of privacy, the various world governments would want to make sure their citizens were behaving. Thus, they would use an automated method of watching; whenever anyone did anything against the law, they would immediately be caught, fined, or otherwise punished.

Of course, everyone that has broken the law, even if they didn't realize it. All those stupid laws will suddenly start making a lot of money . Have you ever invited friends over to watch pay-per-view? Against the rules. Have you ever gone over the speed limit? Ever? Even if it was only for a few seconds? Against the rules. No more speeding on the highway, jaywalking, or hunting ducks from a mule.

Many of the stupid rules would go away, of course. It only takes one politician getting caught bathing with a moose to get THAT law off the books. And speaking of politicians...

Scandals and corruption would vanish

Some corruption would go away, since the corrupt individuals would be caught, but the rest would become legal, even expected. Scandals would be a thing of the past; it's a bit less scandalous when everyone watches it unfold.

Physical keys

Today, passwords, passkeys, key codes, PINs, and other information based keys are increasingly popular. If anyone can watch anything anytime, there is no way to enter a password securely. Any secure transaction will have to use a physical security key, and a complex key at that. Even fingerprints or retinal scans won't work, because those images can be grabbed. Society as a whole would have to change the way information is stored.

Schools and Safety

Schools would actually be much different; I expect that children would simply stay home, since it would no longer be dangerous. Parents and police can keep their eyes on children, while the children watch and interact with remote teachers. Cities would be much safer, as any dangerous people would be kept off the street. Crime, especially violent crime, would plummet as everyone realized it was impossible to get away with anything. Abductions would be almost nonexistent.

Relationships and Job Hunts

Relationships would cease to be built on trust; instead, you could look up your date's love life, money habits, even choice of toothpaste. Dating agencies would fare better than ever as chance meetings would plummet. Businesses would still make stupid hiring decisions, based on irrelevant metrics, like personality type, average number of bathroom trips, or number of toothbrushes used, which means even less of a chance of being hired for your actual skills. Not that your skills would matter, because...

Life can't exist without privacy

Businesses without privacy become monopolies. Introverts without privacy go insane. Governments without privacy become bullies. People would become secretive and withdrawn, fearing to share any information with anyone, lest it become public knowledge.

Humanity would tear itself to shreds.

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    $\begingroup$ Self driving cars, the loss of sportsmen as role models and a world with no intellectual property? SIGN. ME. UP. $\endgroup$
    – Mazura
    Commented Apr 1, 2015 at 5:07
  • $\begingroup$ I guess the entertainment industry might go for a pre-ordering model: “We'll start filming that movie once a million people have bought their tickets. Those sponsors will be thanked by listing them in the credits. And for larger payments individuals may get some say in how the story evolves.” Of course, that won't help if your final conclusion holds. $\endgroup$
    – MvG
    Commented Apr 2, 2015 at 16:38
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    $\begingroup$ Where can I hunt ducks from a mule? $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 2, 2015 at 21:04
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    $\begingroup$ I think your final point is exaggerated. Humans are adaptable. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 3, 2015 at 3:13
  • $\begingroup$ For the password part, they can instead just scan you each time you want to do something, and you won't need passwords anymore. $\endgroup$
    – user23013
    Commented Apr 3, 2015 at 18:49

I'd imagine a world without privacy is most easily understood as a world where you're never alone. As someone who has grown to appreciate 'alone time', such a world would probably have some very negative effects on culture.

For instance, think of introverts and extroverts(I'm probably about to make some pretty big generalizations here). Introverted people usually set aside time to be alone with themselves, and as a result they often turn out interesting and self-aware. Such people may have trouble socializing with others because they have developed on their own, and thus their ideas may not mesh as well with those of others. Highly extroverted people, on the other hand, excel at interactions with others because they've never really taken the time to define themselves as individuals. The things they do are defined by how others do them, and the things they want are defined by the needs and desires of others. Thus, they conform to human protocols, but bring very little to the table in terms of individuality.

In our modern times, we can already see the effects of decreased privacy: in our interconnected world, everyone is starting to become the same. We all grow up with a common pool of experiences (for example, viral videos), and are constantly barraged by other people's opinions, thus giving us less time to form our own. If we give in to these commonalities, we can easily find people who agree with us, and make quick but shallow friendships. This leads to a false sense of happiness, thus ensnaring many people into a virtual trap. Far too many people these days eschew meaningful relationships in favor of Facebook 'friends' and Twitter 'followers'.

In a world without privacy, the levels of conformity would get even higher. Not only would you have constant access to what everyone else is doing, but you could never do anything on your own without being watched by your peers. I'm sure many of us can remember our younger days when we wanted nothing more than to 'fit in'. If, from such an early age, we can tell what everyone else is doing ALL THE TIME, it becomes easy to mimic those actions, and never give any thought to truly defining oneself. Later on, when we begin to desire individuality, it may be too terrifying to branch out, as everyone will know what you're doing and can judge you for it (for example, imagine trying to explore your sexuality when your parents and friends know exactly what you're doing at all times). No one would be safe from bullies, unless they did exactly the same things as the cool kids. People would be afraid to try out new skills or hobbies as well, as their initial failures would be broadcast to the world. In this way, I don't think very many people would ever be able to grow out of this childlike state.

So, in conclusion, a world without privacy would become a world without individuality. Not necessarily a bad thing, so long as whatever personality everyone lands on is a good one. In fact, I'd say this is a lot like ancient times, where individuals were always just a small part of a larger community. In this case, however, the community would be the whole world.

EDIT: Some quick thoughts on the specific points you mentioned:

Relationships - like I said above, they're going to be shallow, since no one has enough personality to be truly interesting. Maybe arranged marriages would come back, or at least you'd hook up with whoever people thought you'd be good with.

Schooling - a lot of possibility for maximizing individual learning through datamining, but I can't say whether anyone would take advantage of it or not.

Child-rearing - You know what your kids are doing, all the time. That probably means they'll never get away with anything, and thus never have any interesting or defining moments in their childhood. Again, more conformity.

Job Hunts - companies know your strengths and weaknesses. They probably have data on whether you'd be a good fit for the company. You won't even have to interview, you'll just receive offers of employment from companies that want you. If you get no offers, well, hopefully your parents have room in their basement.

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    $\begingroup$ +1. The best example we have at hand is that of rural towns were "everybody knows everybody". If you more or less fit-in, it is ok, but if you don't then very bad things happen. And even if an "old-timer" likes you, he cannot show it without risking becoming alienated from the folk himself. People are already losing jobs or getting arrested over stupid twitter posts, when "everyone knows about everyone" non-conformant people will be marginalized. $\endgroup$
    – SJuan76
    Commented Mar 31, 2015 at 18:08
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    $\begingroup$ @MatthewPigram human beings (or what's left of them without individuality) would become drones, just like bees in a bee colony are drones. Individual thought would cease to exist, as those engaging in it get cast out from the group, shunned, hunted down, and eventually (rather quickly I think, given human nature already) imprisoned and killed. This is already starting, with screams to lock up people who don't believe in the global warming mantra for example. And in the past it has happened to others who didn't believe in the religious ideology of that time. $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    Commented Apr 1, 2015 at 3:51
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    $\begingroup$ @MatthewPigram given human history, you can rest assured that the idea of killing (or otherwise getting rid of in such a way that they're permanently removed from society) "different people" will be quickly adopted and become well accepted, even expected, to the point where those refusing to go along with the idea be themselves categorised as such and killed. $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    Commented Apr 1, 2015 at 4:21
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    $\begingroup$ @jwenting: "screams to lock up people who don't believe in the global warming mantra"? Really? Where and when? $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 1, 2015 at 11:37
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    $\begingroup$ I think it's a bit rude to say "Highly extroverted people have never really taken the time to define themselves." I understand it's a generalization, but saying someone who prefers to spend more time in social situations is somehow inferior in the direct sense is just straight biased and mean. $\endgroup$
    – Others
    Commented Apr 1, 2015 at 15:59

(This was going to be a reply as a comment to DVK answer, but it seems worth as an answer on its own.)

Let's start from "teacher can observe you cheating". The problem is that pupils can watch the teacher prepare the exam, too. We have eg 30 people trying to determine which questions they are going to be asked, vs one guy determining if any of them cheated by spying him before. And the only way would be the footage of what all of them did from the point he made the exam to that after it was finished. Which is a really ingrate work. And he doesn't even know if the spying was done by the pupils themself (their parents, a tutor, a company…).

In fact, there would be many companies dedicated to spy, filter and send you the important bits you are interested in.

The only way to keep the exam secret would be to either have a big pool of questions (the whole syllabus) from which the questions are randomly extracted just before the beginning, or to have the teacher create and memorize it without any hint leaving his mind.

And this would not be exclusive of teachers (which would have it relatively easy). Bussinessmen and politics would have to do that all the time, keeping their plans in secret even for their closest assistants, as any communication would be intercepted. The only safe way is not to ley anyone know your intentions and let other people guess to where you are moving to and what actions are decoys (which should be plenty, too).

I should also note that better watching doesn't mean the government couldn't pass corrupt laws, just that it can't admit -not even between them- that they are corrupt. There are many bad laws with apparently good descriptions.

There would also be lots of messages with implicit meanings. For instance, senators instead of promoting a law for "Raise the senators salary" would promote a law for "Compensate the spendings of eating out for those that do so for work reasons more than 60% of the working days" and all of them would instantly know (it's their work to notice these things!) that they all qualify, whereas a laymen may not notice the trick.

Equally, it wouldn't remove discrimination (as DVK mentioned). In a job hunt your prospective boss can reject you based on whatever, he only needs to search you, find something considered bad (and they will find it, for anyone), and pose that as the real reason for the reject.

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    $\begingroup$ Re: exam preparation: that doesn't work if the teacher randomly chooses exam questions for everyone among a large list. And a computer changes the #s in the questions in advance. University oral exams in USSR had 100% questions known in advance - but you get to randomly pick 5 you have to answer out of a hat (literally) out of a list of 100 or so. $\endgroup$
    – user4239
    Commented Mar 31, 2015 at 21:43
  • $\begingroup$ That's the big pool of questions case I mentioned. Note how it boils down to the teacher not knowing the answers himself in advance (similar in some ways to Solar Lottery). I did not mention "changing the numbers" since otherwise knowing what would be asked would allow to cheat by only studying that part. $\endgroup$
    – Ángel
    Commented Mar 31, 2015 at 21:51
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    $\begingroup$ if you know you'll be quized on the trajectory of the thrown stone in an elementary physics class, then you already know which formula to memorize. So knowing "what the problem will be" is only a downside to testing if you pre-calculate the answer in advance. Changing the #s in the problem removes that downside. $\endgroup$
    – user4239
    Commented Mar 31, 2015 at 22:45
  • $\begingroup$ @DVK Agreed, tests should be for understanding, not for rote learning. Adjustments in the way we test would be a benefit for skills more than the current rehearse-repeat approach. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 31, 2015 at 23:46
  • $\begingroup$ Its worse than you think. The drones were explicitly called out by OP as untraceable. To be truly untraceable, means there's no way to tell when someone is accessing the feed from one. That means, at best, all tests are now open book and open Google. Worse, if student has a frat brother who's a doctoral candidate for this stuff, they can check in during the test, and state the answer for the student's drone. Any catching of this would constitute tracing the untraceable drone. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 1, 2015 at 1:36

To a certain extent it would depend on WHO has access to this data. Can my wife just as easily look up my internet searches and credit card statements as the government? How about my neighbor? Or is it competing groups collecting data for themselves and most people just get caught up in the net?

To a certain extent many things won't change because you will still be relatively anonymous in the mountains of data collected and available.

The big difference would likely in the number of serious crimes committed, most would be crimes of passion or nut jobs because it should be easy to get footage of the crime and prosecute the guilty.

5 minutes of fame would be likely to happen (not a full 15) for many different things. Suicide rates could go up if people FEEL they are always being watched, to the less obviously intrusive the surveillance is the easier it will be to ignore.

Likely what would become the norm would be for most to 'ignore' things they found out about each other that wasn't by direct communication or public statement. If you like kinky sex and I was 'watching' I wouldn't bring it up unless it was known that you like an audience etc.

People need at least a sense of privacy to help with mental health. Even animals need it and better zoos have designed enclosures to give them the opportunity to find quiet time for themselves away from prying eyes.

EDT: Someones comment make me think of something else.

If information is easy to come by for people, then it will be a balancing act as to how much 'observation' you want to attract. A good looking woman that stands out in a crowd will likely have a lot less privacy in a world like this, however, on the other hand, it would also make her safer in many respects because if she was assaulted even in a blind alley there would be those who could come to her rescue quickly and/or alert those who can and have many 'copies' for prosecution. On top of that there might be a swift retribution as well, the perp might not make it to receive legal justice.

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    $\begingroup$ The "who" question is really important. Privacy from the government is very different from privacy from neighbors which is again very different from privacy from close family/friends. $\endgroup$
    – Nick2253
    Commented Mar 31, 2015 at 16:26
  • $\begingroup$ Your point on crime seems to me to be a lot more important than you made it out to be. Zero privacy would effectively end crime as we know it, which would probably have ripple effects on all sorts of things. If Dan doesn't ask a follow up about crime, I might have to. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 31, 2015 at 17:12

First off, the question is somewhat meaningless. A society where such a lack of privacy is possible will not devolve into a zero-privacy society, but rather into a society where privacy becomes a luxury good.

This also means that privacy would become asymmetric: ordinary people wouldn't have privacy, but elites would keep it (as would governments). In this scenario, trust would not be enhanced, but undermined. This happens because ordinary people have no reason to trust elites (who would still have privacy), and elites would fear that ordinary people might still eke out enough privacy to stage an uprising.

By the way, this type of society is by no means utopian. That is one reason I arrived at the privacy-as-a-luxury-good.

Privacy is a very recent invention to begin with. Privacy only started taking hold when people were able to build large enough houses or apartments to have rooms to retreat to.

In many parts of the world, privacy has effectively been outlawed. The most obvious example is North Korea, but also in the Pilgrim's New England, there were laws that prohibited anybody from living alone; for singles, widowers or widows, etc., having roommates were mandatory "to prevent sin".

Today's NSA/GCHQ is actually somewhat similar: they expect complete privacy for themselves (under threat of life in prison or even a death penalty), yet insist that nobody else be allowed to have privacy (even to the point where Britain's Cameron suggested outlawing encryption).

The hypothetical society in the original question would suffer the same fate. Possessing these types of drones, or the 3-d printers that produce them, would likely be unavailable to ordinary people. They would likely be illegal, and since there is no privacy, it would also be impossible for ordinary people to illegally own them.

So, no, a true zero-privacy society for everybody is not going to happen. Privacy-as-a-luxury-good would be the real outcome.


An interesting factor that no one seems to have addressed fully (gpeddle and DVK alluded to this) is that for the most part the trust would be implicit, so would people actually check up? If they do then in actuality your society would take on more paranoid tendencies (constantly checking up on people makes you feel paranoid, even if you weren't paranoid before you started - to see what I mean go for a walk and just check over your shoulder every minute or two).

On the other hand if people do not bother how is that different from today? I would have to have some reason to suspect you in order to actually investigate, so most of the time I would just take you at your word.

If the technology yielded more of a viral video effect then people would become more sedentary across the board as they waste even more time than they do today, meaning that the vast majority of the public would simply be monitored by advertisers and governments (if I know my kids are sat on the couch next to me watching Old Mrs. Potts down the road, why would I have drones watching them).

Of course how are modesty and things like nudity and sex dealt with? Do the drones provide proactive blurring of inappropriate bits that we would consider offensive? If so can you use that to commit crimes (if I am at an orgy and everything is blurred, can you tell I committed the crime)? If auto-blur is not used, then society would have to face those issues and accept them, so there would likely be more acceptance and less shame.

A couple of people noted that certain crimes would be less likely to occur, but it is equally likely that those crimes would increase (assault was mentioned - some people like watching assault of any kind occur and would be happy to sit an observe it without raising an alert), especially if the criminals get a large fan following.

One final note - if the advances are sudden and a large part of the population is offended or objects you could have a greater push to leave Earth for more "privacy friendly" locations in space, effectively splitting humanity into two factions.


It looks like you're looking for comments, more than asking a direct question, so here's a comment I didn't see.

Information overload and apathy.

At some point with all that data, a large portion of people just wouldn't care about other people's lives. Call those other people "riff raff", "poor", "lower class", "working class", or what have you, but it would be security through obscurity. Those people would be the masses of datapoints in the bell curve.

At some point, "Big Government" and "Big Data" will reach a level of data collection where they will be satiated and/or crushed by their own greed for data collection. Much like the hoarder/collector who realizes the meaning of the phrase "The more “stuff” you own, the more your “stuff” owns you." At some point, it's possible for that to happen with massive data collection. Assuming, of course, that population continues to increase.

You said that there was sufficient computing resources to process the incoming data, but who would look at it? Would that data change substantially? Would the watchers care if it changed? Would they try to make it change? My guess is that most of them would become apathetic and a small minority might try to make certain things change, if only on a whim.


Very little would change.

The government would declare it absolutely illegal for individuals to spy on other individuals, corporations, or the government. Because getting away with crime is impossible, people would not do it, as they would be arrested.

Police, the military, the bureaucracy and big corporations would be allowed to use this data, and they would do so all the time. There would be strict controls so that people could only spy on people of lower rank than them.

So the only thing that would change is that the government and Google would know everything about our private lives (how crazy and unlike the real world is that!!)

Edit: So as the question was "what would happen if we already had reached the stage where this thing already did happen", I can suspend disbelief that humanity could ever reach that point described.

The system would be as described in the OP for a short amount of time. Then, there would be a single incident that goes wrong. Most likely, someone would find out a piece of information about someone else and respond without thinking. A crime of passion. They would be caught, of course, after the fact. No-one could respond quickly enough to prevent the incident. The government at the time would use this as a reason to introduce some sort of test/licencing system/permissions system, which would prevent many people from accessing much information legally. The people would go along with it, much as we go along with idiotic things in this day and age (my country is currently allowing our government warrantless access to our metadata 'to fight terrorists and paedophiles', despite the minister pushing for this change not knowing what metadata is and a 2nd government minister explaining the various ways around the system that will be used by terrorists to make it pointless for crime fighting. There is no hidden information about the motives for this law, the entire country is aware that this is being done to allow governments to spy on innocent people. Yet we do nothing.

Years would pass, similar events would continue to happen and the government would each time make it harder and harder for people outside of the government to access information. Every time, people would accept it, willingly giving up power for the illusion of safety from criminals. Controls within the government would be tightened, with various levels of classification (secret, top secret etc). Depending on your importance within government, your brain would be classified according to these levels. This of course would lead to an extremely corrupt society, where a small number of people have almost unlimited power.

To bring the mood down even more and counter the "but people wouldn't let that happen" cry:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

(Martin Niemöller (1892–1984))

  • $\begingroup$ Although I agree mostly you forget two things: 1) The premise of the question has already passed this point. 2) Governments having virtually perfect control over people is bound to have HUGE effects. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 1, 2015 at 4:50
  • $\begingroup$ You answer is if a government is a single-minded entity with no communication or discussion before making decisions. When the people can watch anything that the people who run the government do, how would they reach the point where they outlaw the drones? And how would they enforce it when everybody already has them? $\endgroup$
    – KSmarts
    Commented Apr 1, 2015 at 19:16
  • $\begingroup$ Not sure what you mean, Ksmarts. We already can watch everything the government does, using illegal wiretaps. They can find out what we are doing (including checking if we are illegally wiretapping them) with legal wiretaps. We don't do it because it is illegal, and the chance of getting caught is high (and for probably 99% of people they simply don't care, but I'm talking about people that do). $\endgroup$
    – Scott
    Commented Apr 1, 2015 at 20:57
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Scott I've edited your answer a bit just to make it clear that the last part is a quotation. $\endgroup$
    – ArtOfCode
    Commented Apr 4, 2015 at 21:17

Let's consider how after the invention of these drones society would likely develop

Stage 0: A lot of scandals and less corruption

People start using the drones to check up on the truthiness of a lot of things they hear about. Be it celebrities or politicians, a lot of lies will be uncovered.

Stage 1: Creativity and progress would come to a halt

Businesses start joining the fray disregarding the fact that it is originally illegal and will start using them to spy on their competition. There will be a short burst of development as everything is pushed out of R&D labs into the real world by all companies before all R&D institutes are stopped, because investing money in R&D instead of spying would be a stupid thing to do. Universities would hold out a bit longer, but in the end the same would apply to them. Either way, for civilian life this means a huge number of people losing their jobs as industries get destroyed (like the entertainment industry, which is essentially only R&D) or just shrink in size and get stuck in time.

Stage 2: World War n+1

Somewhere in the world at some point once again an ideological government will get voted into power that will decide to use this technology to empower themselves and outlawing 3D printers in general. Just think 1984. As even they can not do R&D (as others will simply copy any of their developments) they will start putting all their money into the development of their police force first and army second. As that country knows exactly how strong other countries are they will be able to quite easily decide whether to attack or not. Either way, depending on their relative strength there might be an arms race after which war will long term be inevitable.

(If this sounds hard to comprehend, think about it like this: If someone has the superpower to predict the future, the only way to defeat him is to overpower him in such a way that even knowing exactly what is going to happen he won't be able to dodge it. In essence that's exactly what would happen, but then on a country level.)

Stage 3: The stable stage

One way or another one will end up with a situation where the government does have access to these drones and the population does not. It is also likely that countries will grow in size and that only one or at most a couple of countries will be left. Depending on the ideology of the government(s) they will use this perfect control (perfect knowledge + police form) to enforce whatever they believe in and as there is no chance of rebellion (as they have perfect knowledge and can stop a rebellion before it starts). The implications on civilian lives seems clear (and otherwise read 1984 or any of the other classics).

And yes, the above is extremely dystopian, but honestly, the only way this could be prevented is if governments would outlaw 3d printers globally in time (which is obviously not the case based on the premise of the question). And even if they did that it would just mean one would jump straight from Stage 0 to Stage 3, just with more complex politics.

  • $\begingroup$ "...all R&D institutes are stopped, because investing money in R&D instead of spying would be a stupid thing to do." Or perhaps, as in other cases where there is a market failure for providing a service, governments would have to carry all or most of R&D funding. But then again, there are multiple governments... hmmm.... $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 1, 2015 at 11:45
  • $\begingroup$ @TeemuLeisti That's exactly why I mentioned that universities would hold out longer, but 1) in the end you still have personal competition instead of corporate competition driving academics (proving that you were the one actually writing the paper would become incredibly hard, if possible at all) and 2) as you state it's suddenly a lot less attractive for governments at all to invest in research if a government not investing in it would get the upper hand financially. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 1, 2015 at 11:52
  • $\begingroup$ How exactly can the government maintain monopoly on this (either vs. other governments, OR populace) given the question's given premise of "stealth micro-drones. ... can be created anonymously and cheaply using 3D-printer farms." ? You're making a base underlying assumption that seems contrary to the question. $\endgroup$
    – user4239
    Commented Apr 1, 2015 at 13:56
  • $\begingroup$ @DVK Outlawing 3D-printer 'farms' themselves, just like for example guns are outlawed in most of the western world. The premise states that in the first phase the government has failed at doing so, but it's a given that some government at some point of time will do so. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 1, 2015 at 14:07
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidMulder - The reason you can outlaw guns is because most normal people can't make one. 3Dprinting can't be outlawed effectively - you can 3Dprint a 3dPrinter. $\endgroup$
    – user4239
    Commented Apr 1, 2015 at 14:09

I think that the fundamental change from today’s society would be the absence of guilt. If you consider that guilt is basically the fear of someone finding out what you have done or thought, then any totally transparent society makes that fear a certainty, so you either don't do it, or you stop being afraid of others finding out about it. Either way, no more guilt. One minor effect of this change would include no more blackmail based corruption.

However, a more significant consequence of this would be the reduction if not absence of inhibition. Being unable to hide something means you would probably stop bothering. If you want to be a racist, you may as well be openly racist. People who don't feel comfortable about that wont deal with you, people who aren't bothered or who agree with you will. Discrimination laws would be meaningless and unenforceable so wouldn't exist.

I think the result would be consensual based society with complete tolerance of anything that goes on between consenting adults. Of course it would be much easier to find adults who would consent to your desires, if you are willing to consent to theirs. The balance to this would be near total intolerance of attempts to impose your will on others, with strong social pressure to respect others in a non judgemental way. This would effectively express itself in two ways, one, as social privacy; So yes, someone else can know exactly what you are doing, when, where, and with whom, but would they actually care? And two, as a stratified society. Green racists would not choose to live near blue people and blue people would not choose to live near green racists. People would tend live in communities of like minded people, but those communities could be very different from each other. No more 'small town USA'.

With the absence of guilt and inhibition, you have a significant difficulty with coercion. How can an authority assert their will if all citizens can know everything? You can't imprison someone if everyone knows where the keys are kept. A cop can't arrest and a soldier can't kill someone who knows where your kids go to school and a criminal can't steal something that can be stolen back before it is fenced. Simplifying a lot, the only offence would be to impose your will on another, then only punishment, social exclusion (banishment).


Privacy is a modern invention, at least for the majority of society. I would recommend looking back at pre-Industrial-Revolution society for some ideas. Prior to that, there was no meaningful privacy really. (I discount 'meaningless' privacy which would be being able to have your actions/location/status be unknown but only to people who have no capacity to affect your life) Families slept in common rooms. Bathrooms had multiple seats and no dividers. Communication with anyone you were not face-to-face with was essentially impossible. Homes contained only the most bare minimum facilities, so most things a person would want/need to do had to be done in public, including bathing. Certainly there were isolated rural farmers, but their privacy would fall under the 'meaningless' header since everyone who could affect their life knew everything about them, and the only people who didn't know everything were powerless to affect them in almost any way.

To get meaningful privacy, you've got to be able to be connected enough to other people that they can have a significant effect on your life, but disconnected enough that you can do meaningful things without actually directly involving that same group of people.

I imagine the issue of 'meaningful privacy' will be important in your world because, barring some sort of extraordinary discovery or alien intervention which would have a far larger effect than anything to do with privacy, the resources simply do not exist to assign micro-drones to every person alive, collect and transport and store the data, etc.


Perhaps a better enabling technology would be to assume that everyone is telepathic, turning us into more of hive society if you will. All thoughts are knowable to members of the hive.

"How would zero privacy impact culture - things like relationships, schooling, child-rearing, job hunts, etc.?"

I would guess that a hive would favor consensus, community-centric work ethic, the minimizing of conflict and would look a lot like socialism. I would also guess that there would be individuals who don't like such things and would fight for their personal identity, their privacy, their ability to gather wealth as distinct from that of the society's, etc.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure the last sentence is 100% valid. As my answer notes, some of class (or other) envy is motivated by LACK of information. You might get less envious of that 1%er guy when you discover that the cost of his 1% is that he sees his perfect large house for 7 hours a day (the rest is commuting+work), and gets 5 hours/night of sleep due to that work. And that his perfectly dressed, good looking significant other is a slob and bad in bed. There is a good reason objective research shows that having more money above a certain minimal threshold does not lead to more happiness $\endgroup$
    – user4239
    Commented Mar 31, 2015 at 19:11
  • $\begingroup$ I was born poor to parents of no significant education. Without any degrees and by years of fighting my way to the top I eventually became a CEO for a span of about nine years. I made more money than I could spend and actually, I was happy nearly every day of that rich, rich life. Notably, I gave generously to heifer.org to fend off any personal feelings that I wasn't "giving back". I'm relatively poor again, btw. Still happy, for what it's worth. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 1, 2015 at 1:07
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelBlankenship The key here is the "certain minimal threshold" that DVK mentions. It's better to be not-poor than it is to be poor, but being rich is not significantly better (in terms of happiness) than being simply not-poor. $\endgroup$
    – KSmarts
    Commented Apr 1, 2015 at 19:05
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Ksmarts Mainly when I read DVK's earlier answer I just nodded in the fashion that an older person does when a younger person thinks they know all the answers. He seems to be equating lack of privacy to lack of infidelity and yields 100% trust. You'd be surprised to find that some people blatantly cheat on their spouses, btw. Get marred and divorced a few times and you'll sing a different tune. Look at the data made public from the Freedom of Information Act. Finding out the truth even 50 years after-the-fact doesn't equate to more trust in these organizations. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 1, 2015 at 23:31

The pace of innovation will diminish. Ventures will become fewer and be anticipated to have fewer returns. Great achievements or feats will be scarce. Benefit or profits will be closed to the masses. Standardization will be prevalent. Organizations' management will be redundant and unnecessary. Human self-motivation will get impaired. Human creativity will be truncated. Human life will be boring.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Can you explain why each of these things will happen? $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Commented Apr 1, 2015 at 23:51

The end result of a Zero-privacy culture is not determined by how much information is available, but by how that information is used by the organizations who are most interested in it.


You can't have a zero-privacy culture and assume that criminals aren't going to abuse it in some fashion. Even with an infinite wealth of information available to everyone, criminals will find minor ways to 'trick' the system into going blind for a second, or reporting false information, and with the level of trust people have in the observation technology that's available, the effects would be devastating.

Small-time criminals would find their lives much harder - with petty crimes like theft being easy to prove, and murder being immediately solvable. Digital crimes would be easier, with simple ways to trick the system being justifiable as it is today - by 'finding ways the system can be tricked to solve the problems the system has today', such that cyber crime would become much more popular.

And of course, even with a wealth of information at our fingertips, our real limiting factor on how much crime we can prevent is how much of that information we can act upon. Certainly there will be video footage of every minor crime taking place, but unless someone is monitoring every surveillance camera in the world (and there would be a LOT Of them) 24/7, there's no guarantee the criminal will actually be caught.

And there will always be crimes where the intent is misunderstood - unless this surveillance system also infiltrates and reveals a person's intent. In which case, we'd have a Minority Report situation, where people are arrested for crimes they haven't yet committed, which would bring about its own problems.


The government would be an early adopter of this system, and it would certainly use this information to help law enforcement keep any society that uses this system safe. We've already established that in the Criminal section.

However, there are so many other ways for the government to use this information - some justifiable, others very unjustifiable.

Assuming the universal surveillance goes across boarders and isn't limited to one country, the government would use this technology to spy on other governments - and if other governments are using this technology too, we'd have a complicated network of governments spying on other governments, who know they're being spied on by the other government. In short, no more state secrets of any kind (Unless they use blocking technology: See Criminals). For governments with like-minded goals, this would be no problem. For governments that are mortal enemies, this would be an absolute nightmare.

And that's just what the government would do outside their own boarders. From within, the situation becomes much more horrifying. Opposing political parties would have full access to all the strategies and secrets that each party is forming, and full access to the lives of their voters, which would lead to incredible levels of pandering for each government body, and an incredibly high focus on major political candidates to not create any scandals. In this world, political success would hinge entirely on creating a perfect self-image. Whether or not this creates a perfect politician is questionable, depending on how well they can form this illusion, and what they actually do with the immense power of all their nation's personal information once they're in office. If their intent is pure, there's no problem. If they intend to abuse it, they'll have no problem abusing it at all, save for justifying each abuse as it's exposed by the media.

Personal Use

You say that there is no privacy, and if that is true then there'd be no privacy among neighbors either, or even among strangers living far across the planet.

In some cases, this would be fantastically useful - you'd instantly know if you can trust someone or not, and you'd know if anyone does anything unfair or unkind to you without having to wonder or worry about it at all.

On the other hand, any minor mistake or mess-up that you do would be known to everyone, everywhere, forever. People would be much more cautious, they would take much fewer risks, and we'd be held much more accountable for each individual action.

Assuming we don't manage to greatly reduce criminal activity, the imprisonment rate would skyrocket at first, until we all grow to adjust to being constantly monitored, or learn to avoid it in any way possible before committing any mistakes, which could still get found out and land us in prison and permanent ridicule for the rest of our lives. The common citizen would be constantly vigilant of what they do.

On the other hand, as we mentioned earlier, the average citizen wouldn't spend their whole life looking up what each individual person has been seen doing, and wouldn't have time to learn everything about everybody they encounter casually throughout the day. Clean-looking, honest-looking criminals would pass right under their notice, simply because information overload would prevent anyone from meaningfully using this information, except on their close friends and colleagues.


Corporations would definitely come out on top in this world - universal knowledge of their market, and what the market wants most at this very moment, means knowing exactly what to develop and focus on at any given time. And say goodbye to ever having to worry about hiring new employees ever again - you know instantly the qualifications of your prospective hires the moment they walk into the door.

Of course, corporations would also no longer have any secrets - everyone would be aware of the dark dealings of major organizations, and prosecution of these organizations would be easy, since there'd be no way to hide what they're doing, and no way they could claim they didn't have the information about what they were doing.

This would also mean secret innovations would be worthless, since every company would know what every other company was doing, and copy it or improve upon it immediately to sell a better version. Small businesses would be especially screwed, since large businesses can copy anything they do and undercut the cost to drive them out of business.

The World

The world at large would be a much more cautious, neurotic place, with every person focusing on their self-image (and the few that aren't being the dregs of society) while constantly worrying about government and criminals alike abusing their knowledge of their private lives. Everyone would be very polite to each other, while knowing all the dirty secrets of everyone at the same time.

In short, it would be a society of extreme paranoia.

  1. Laws have adjusted to be more accurate of the "normal" human nature and perception. By this time, society can see the problems with their own society (if they choose too), easily see what caused these problems, and figure out better solutions.

    • Crime and any disputed actions have become trivial matters to solve
    • Society is fully aware of how common certain crimes or issues are, and can fully look into what caused the person to commit the crime.
    • There are also probably tons of very accurate studies dealing with human behavior and responses
  2. People are either forced to behave more strictly by society, or they are alternatively very accepting

    • If it is unacceptable to own a cat, and you cannot keep a cat hidden, you will not be owning a cat. However, it could be the opposite as well. Everyone may say, "Who cares if they own a cat? Everyone can do what they want so long as they don't hurt others." (It would have to be decided what all constitutes "others" and how far that extends) Now substitute "owning a cat" for some other debatable topic.
  3. Misinformation is now very hard to pull off successfully, but incredibly valuable.

    • How is misinformation handled by the system? Say I use my "best security" to gain privacy for a couple hours - create a private (false) document, and "accidentally" have it leaked. Is there any way this information can be removed if it was found to be false? If there is, it seems to indicate some person(s) have power over what is and isn't out there, or at least how it is displayed. If not, then not everything could be trusted, or if everything is trusted; then misinformation is probably very worth the cost in some instances.
  4. Very accurate and possibly even "exploitative" targeted advertising, unless there are now laws around it.

    • You just looked up window curtains on Google and now have ads for home decorating. Imagine if they had all the information present in this society.

How would zero privacy impact culture - things like relationships, schooling, child-rearing, job hunts, etc.

I post this answer specifically as an alternate view to the accepted top rated and excellent answer of @user4239 - not to discredit it, but to offer another train of thought.

First, I think a lot depends on the kind of Government that would evolve in such a condition. Note that even if all information is freely available, interpretation and conclusions drawn from it are still up to the individual. As such, power will arise out interpretive authority either through force or populism - or society will split into many fractions.

I can imagine mainly three scenarios, considering only the stable ones:

A. Quasi religious leadership:

Somebody gave an interpretation to the vast and suddenly available flood of information. One that does not have to be right, but gives him power to make the rules. A lot of people subscribe to this. A small number will disagree, and be either regarded as weirdos or even comply and keep silent about it because they don´t want to risk discrimination

B. Brutal dictatorship

The one with the most force under his control, and maybe the first to have broad access this new technology as it arose has seized the power. Every attempt at resistance is futile, as it will be discovered and crushed the moment it it sparks anywhere

C. "Real" democracy or sort of rule based anarchy

After some chaos and adjustment in the beginning, some overthrown governments and some violent states of anarchy everybody more or less agreed to a common set of rules and to a certain degree of common services.

Obviously, this would have a big effect on the society evolved. I will concentrate on Option C, since I think that is what you mainly had in mind in your question. The more dystopian ones are, more or less the subject of several books already anyways.

I think generally society will drift into different directions. A lot of people will just stop to care, stop to pretend and start to follow their desires more freely. I becomes normal when you know everybody does it. Some will do the opposite. They will live an especially controlled and exemplary life.



I don´t think relationship would change too much overall. Definitively, it would not fix any issues of jealousy, as this is as much a crime of thought than a crime of body that people are jealous of.

  1. I think there would be much less people living in abusive relationships, as others would know an help you out of it / take sanction against the abuser.

  2. There would be much more People living an alternate, more personalized forms of relationship arrangements as society as a whole would know what´s going on in private bedrooms. This would serve to normalize what is noways considered taboos.

  3. There would be "trust-ers" and "controll-ers" - people who choose to deliberately not access info about each other or the ones who would do exactly that exessiveley. Lot of conflict potential here.

In all, relationships will stay just as complicated as they are now, with some added perks. Big data won´t help you with matchmaking unless some clever AI would also be developed - not part of the question.

Neighbors / friends etc.

Envy would stay about the same. People tend to realize only what you have, not what you sacrificed for that.

People would have to set clearer boundaries, because you can no longer use excuses to decline a request or invitation. Things like: no, I cant make it because I am lazy today will become acceptable.


Classical Capitalist theory still would not work, as people still are not rational beings and value of things can often only be appraised in hindsight.

Same need for lawyers, other occupation.
- It will be easier to detect a breach of contract. - Meaning of contracts are still up for interpretation. - No more need for NDA´s and trade secrets. - More effort to control resources, talent and machinery. - More need for data-mining lawyers that will make a case out of the surveillance data. (Was it malice or inability that led to the faulty product? etc.)

job hunts

You don´t find your employer, your employer finds you. No more interviews, they have a record of the last 6 months of performance already on tape. If you get an invite, you will get it with a reasonable offer already. They know what you are making now and what everybody else makes.

More wage-equality everybody knows what everybody earns, and how much a company can afford to pay. No more bullshit-bingo when negotiating.


Completely new paradigm. Schooling will concentrate much more on developing skills, reasoning and the ability to obtain and filter information. No more need for teaching a lot of knowledge.

No more need for grades - persons abilities and development could be observed by anyone interested. Instead there would be qualitative appraisals with recommendation of areas of further development.

Universities would have true open access. As such laws would need to change to adopt to a more open-source since pattern.


Parents would have to change their paradigm. Trust != control. You would know your Kid did something wrong, so you will have find ways to deal with it without completely suppressing any room for development.

The good thing is, there would be less traumatized children, as the seam thing like with abusive relationships applies here too. Less chance of a child developing a severe personality disorder, as this would be obvious much earlier.

Society overall

Less planned crime. Maybe more crime in affect for some (the people who try to live the controlled life) Some things will not be or start to be considered a crime. Throw away you plastic bag in nature? Everybody knows it was you, and how harmful it really is! Walk nude in public? Who cares, we know how you look like from when you where in the shower...

No direct corruption.

A lot more populism. If you want influence, you can no longer assert it by force or misinformation. You have to convince people to subscribe to your conclusion of known facts.


I think this is quite the powerful ability, so I don't expect society as we know it to keep going. I expect a new society to rapidly adjust to this change in privacy. It should be comparable to how society adapted to the computer, or how the RIAA/MPAA evolved in the presence of bittorrent and youtube (or at least is evolving. Baby steps)

Because these drones are such a monumental force in this new society, their weaknesses will have a marked effect on the construction of society. Their primary weakness is their inability to pierce the human body. This means the individual is going to be a powerful force, and it also means there is going to be great effort taken to allow human to human communication without drone interception.

Observable communication will shift towards time sensitive information. The value of information will be limited in ways which make it very useful on short periods of time, but useless under long periods of time. Likely speech will shift to discuss the relationships between things that matter, rather than the things themselves. That way the things themselves can interact without ever exposing their actual essence. Western cultures will start with many codewords for things. Eventually we would stop using English all together, and switch to Chinese, which is a language more tailored to the discussion of relationships.

Body language would become utterly essential to culture, especially contact. The contact of a handshake or a hug would convey subtle information that is nearly impossible to observe with microdrones.

There would be an underground of rebels who actively seeks to overthrow the system by trying to design information streams which demand increasingly large amounts of processing to decypher. If information goes undecypherd (and they'd know it because they're tapped into the streams), then it may be used as a covert channel to create privacy. If the information is deciphered, then they up the ante and find something which requires even more brute force to calculate.


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