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A lot of debate has erupted in the aftermath of the Edward Snowden revelations. And no matter what each of us are arguing about, there seems to be one unifying topic that rips through the heart of everyone’s concern: Are we no longer able to have the luxury of keeping certain things private?
At the risk of sounding pessimistic, the answer is probably not – although I’m not entirely sure we had that luxury to begin with. Additionally, and this time at the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist, the reason for this is the social construct we have created for ourselves, specifically, our economical and political practices that have run amok.
Snowden showed the world how the United States has essentially taken the liberty to collect as much data about us if they so choose, whether we know it or not. And even though we now know, they still haven’t stopped.
They say this data collection process was not used on US citizens, which turned out to be false. They also tell us that the laws of the United States allows security agencies to collect any and as much data as they so choose if they feel a foreigner on US soil poses a security threat. This means, should the rest of the world decide to visit the US at some point in their lifetime, the “land of the free” would be able to amass information on 96% of the world’s population, most, or rather majority of it, would be irrelevant.
Many argue that it is what keeps their country, and probably the world save. But let’s look at the evidence. From what Snowden has leaked, it has become evident that all an authority figure in a security agency has to do is say, “Yeah, what the hell, let’s just collect some info on this guy!”. No evidence or probable cause is required for surveillance. The Head of State of both Brazil and Germany have been subjected to this invasion of privacy. The EU parliament weren’t spared either.
Even a guy with the same name as a suspected terrorist wasn’t spared, which is the equivalent of saying, “You know what? I knew a Bob who was in the KKK. And there’s a Bob who works in the coffee shop I eat at. Wait a sec? Same guy?”
It is becoming increasingly evident that people with power do what they like just because they can and not because they must.
Google tells us that if we don’t want them reading our emails for analytics purposes so that they can sell it as a marketing database, then we shouldn’t use gmail. How many office e-mails are powered by gmail? Where is this supposed choice they seem to so charitably assume?
What about Facebook who essentially say the same thing? Not happy with our terms, then don’t sign up.
None of them may force us to join. But a lot of these giants utilize the fact that we have become dependent on these tools to function in society as well as to connect and interact with the world. Essentially, their argument – without being too over-simplified – is that if I don’t want my privacy invaded then I shouldn’t e-mail my Aunt overseas.
Many people seem to defend these perpetrators by saying that if you have nothing to hide then there’s nothing to worry about. Well firstly, even if I have nothing to hide, I should, at the very least, have the right to say so before having my privacy stripped away from me. Privacy is not for someone to take before leaving us with the responsibility of trying to take it back.
Furthermore, things we may not consider private may not be the same as others, which means that even if we don’t believe in the specifics of the right to privacy, the fact that we believe privacy is our right means we should stand together with the populists to fight against the establishments who choose to strip away our privacy for personal gain without due democratic process.
Of course I acknowledge that privacy is not an absolute privilege. I’m aware I can’t just demand the right for total privacy. But considering how cavalierly big names invade our privacy is not only surprising but alarming.
The fact that they do it in secret or without explicitly informing us tells us that they are aware we wouldn’t approve. The fact that giants such as the NSA and Google demand privacy while they invade ours, shows us the depth of hypocrisy clouding their own reasoning.
That my friends is something we should think about.
Today I walked past a man selling luggage tags as part of his rehabilitation program after being released from prison. But his history had nothing to do with the story. It’s just to provide some background information.
The luggage tag cost $10, which seemed rather expensive. Half the cost – $5 – would go to him. He claims to be supporting his sick mum as well as himself by doing this. Now I’m always skeptical when people tell me stories like that. But it doesn’t affect my decision to help because I believe that it’s their cross to bear when they are willingly deceptive. So I figured, since I just got paid by my part-time job, I’d pay it forward and help the guy out. But here’s the thing though, I instantly regretted it.
The regret had nothing to do with him. I allocate my money to various things and giving money away would mean I would have to compromise something. In other words, if he hadn’t approached me, I wouldn’t have thought twice to help others if my goals weren’t achieved yet. I’m not sure if it’s a good or bad thing. What I do know is that it can be attributed to either human nature or the way society functions. We’re all nice, generous and kind when we want to be (or when we are nudged in that direction). But to do it selflessly is the part we struggle with.
Perhaps that was the lesson today. A reminder that we can’t make the world a better place if we prioritize our wants before others needs. I’d like to think that I’m compassionate. However, I hadn’t realized I wasn’t selflessly compassionate. And if history is anything to go by, it’s the selfless people that made the world more conducive and equal for people to live in.
It seems harder to find a news or media outlet that isn’t highly opinionated. Slowly but surely, these outlets find that having an opinion is what’s required for them to stay relevant and popular in a modern society, ergo, more profitable. The irony of course is that now, what we consume from them is someone’s opinion on what’s happening in the world today rather than what’s actually happening.
It’s a dangerous game to play. When you have an audience looking to you for information and instead you give them only the information that will side with your argument, it shapes the way your audience thinks, which would inevitably create a very polarizing society.
This begs the question: How can we report the news from a neutral perspective when its profitability depends on it taking a particular side? Outlets like Fox and Huffington Post have always been guilty of this. But what’s worse is that normally dependable outlets such as the Guardian are slowing moving towards that direction.
I suppose we only have ourselves to blame when all we crave is entertainment. We expect outlets that once provided only information to produce their content like how E! Entertainment would produce a reality show – have people shout over each other during a discussion or tell people why something is wrong without stating clearly the important facts of the case.
It sure would be nice if someone brought back the news