Posted by : Wendy B Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Taxes. Not exactly the most exciting topic, and yet, thanks to TurboTax, it has become a source of amusement for me, rather than consternation. Last year, I even tweeted taxFiction, turning my annual income tax into a sordid romance adventure involving dependents and RRSPs. There’s nothing so exhilarating as checking that “dependents” radio button and seeing your tax return sky rocket. I knew I had children for a good reason, and tax season is when I appreciate them the most.

This year, I was disappointed that TurboTax wasn’t quite as forth coming with the love and devotion. They only sent me one email offering me tax season discounts. Technically, I guess they don’t have to. Our relationship has been going on for so long that they just take for granted that I’m hopelessly smitten with their easy-to-use tax software. In fact, it just keeps getting easier and easier to use, and this year, when I pressed that final “file” button, it felt a bit anti-climactic. They now push my information straight through to the CRA for me. I don’t even have to leave the TurboTax site to wrestle with the government webpage and uploading and all that. TurboTax does it all.

But as much as I appreciate the ease of use, this is definitely one of those ominous moments that looms over me, all thanks to Panel Syndicate, the team behind The Private Eye. Julie from TurboTax cutely replied to my tweet, which is part of what makes using TurboTax fun. They encourage you to share your taxification on social media—because who doesn’t want to know about your charitable donations of 2014—and they eagerly respond.

As much as I appreciate Julie’s chipper reply, I’m pretty sure she missed the reference. The Private Eye is a comic by Brian K. Vaughan, Marcos Martin, and Muntsa Vincente. It takes place in our not so distant future (2076) when all that private and confidential information we’ve been blissfully uploading and transmitting across cyberspace suddenly becomes not so private and confidential.
"Look, once upon a time, people stored all their deepest, darkest secrets
in something called "The Cloud," remember? Well one day, the cloud burst."
People now live in a constant state of anonymity when they step outside of their houses, complete with pseudonyms and costumes. The internet is no more, but that doesn’t mean personal information is safe. This is where the Paparazzi comes in. They are now truly branded criminals for their attempts to pry into private lives and reveal what hides under the masks.

And the creative irony of it all, is that, when Vaughan presented this idea to Martin, Martin suggested that the comic only be made available online.

Since I started reading The Private Eye, my every online transaction is suspect. Not that I’ve stopped online transactioning. Companies like Amazon, Google, and Steam have their claws too deeply embedded in my soul for me to stop now (oh that one-click buy button is all kinds of evil). But I do it with a wary finger and an eye for security. With all the recent hacking scandals, this ought to be standard practice for everyone, but reports still show people using “password” as their, well, password. I suppose there’s a blissful belief that these major stories in the media are about big companies and Hollywood celebrities. No one cares about the nude photos on my cellphone. But this is a bad case of Bystander Effect where the bystander isn’t simply ignoring the problem in hopes that someone else will take care of it. They are dangerously unaware of the fact that this really is their problem too. In The Private Eye, it’s not just celebrity culture and big companies under attack when someone wants personal information. It might just be a comic, but the reality is that identity theft isn’t just a silly movie.

I don’t expect everyone to live in a state of conspiracy theory level paranoia, but awareness and understanding of just what is going on when you shop online, subscribe to this or that, or include your GPS in your photos, shouldn’t be too much to expect from anyone using the internet these days. The Private Eye may seem like an amusing joke, with its flashy colours and fancy costumes, but it hits far too close to home not to take it as the cautionary tale it is.

WHAT IS THIS?

This is my mindspill. Mostly about comics, books, video games, movies of the science fiction and fantasy leanings. Sometimes recipes and parenting stuff will sneak in, along with a real world rant or two.

I also write about geek culture at Women Write About Comics, and I review genre fiction at The BiblioSanctum.

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