I watched David Fincher’s Seven for the first time the other day. It’s got that 90s grungy look to it, but it holds up really well.
This scene caught my attention in particular. The two detectives, Mills (Brad Pitt) and Somerset (Morgan Freeman), discuss how they’re going to track down a serial killer. Somerset had convinced his contact at the F.B.I to do some discreet background research, and explains this to Mills.
SOMERSET: For a long time, the F.B.I.’s been hooked into the library system, keeping accurate records.
MILLS: What? Assessing fines?
SOMERSET: They monitor reading habits. Not every book, but certain ones are flagged. Books about… let’s say, how to build a nuclear bomb, or maybe Mein Kampf. Whoever takes out a flagged book has their library records fed to the F.B.I. from then on.
MILLS: You got to be kidding.
SOMERSET: Flagged books cover every topic the Bureau deems questionable… communism to violent crime.
MILLS: How is this legal?
SOMERSET: Legal… illegal. These terms don’t apply. I don’t applaud it.
Mills’ disbelief—on ethical grounds—that the F.B.I. tracks the odd library book, really highlights how attitudes to privacy have changed in the past 25 years.