Privacy — a topic so fundamental to our being. Yet it is unclear as to how we have reached this point in time where the concept is treated so casually. Like the slow burn of a destabilising satellite, technological advancements, geopolitical events and global crisis have shaped modern thinking about privacy.
And not for the better.
Privacy in the modern world is eroding faster than Bitcoin swings over any given weekend. Compounding this further is that few of us may be aware of this. Many are often gripped by ignorance born out of apathy or bred from desensitisation. We fail to recognise how this important battle of personal rights will set the stage for our future — however free or dystopian it may spin into.
Tracking and databasing have become the norm and technology will continue to make deeper inroads into intimacy and privacy. But for what are personal freedoms in the hallowed name of security and stability? Many of us seem to be willing to forgo such rights for the sake of convenience and access. Amazon knows our purchasing habits more intimately than our partners; and it is great! We get the recommendations we did not know we wanted — nay, needed. Twitter understands our likes and dislikes, incestuously leading us on with suggested posts and likes.
Convenient. Familiar. Friendly. But at what cost?
While privacy continues to be threatened by emerging technologies, only so much of the blame can be apportioned to The Man. We are also guilty — carefree with our personal data, completely disregarding its importance. All the while, we tend to shift the burden of responsibility on to the shoulders of Big Tech.
Yes, they should care more. But they care more about their profit margins.
Privacy advocates are constantly screaming into the void: “We should do more to curtail the loss of privacy.” We have all heard some iterations of this argument, be it from Snowden or Assange. However, lying counterpoint is the claim that greater transparency paves the way forward to a better world where security, stability and understanding are upheld.
Often touted is the catch-all: “If you have done nothing wrong, there is nothing to fear.” It is simplistic, and elegantly manoeuvring away from the nuances of the issue. By making every action public, we open ourselves up to undesired scrutiny. Humanity perhaps is not as evolved as our conceits would have us think. While there’s private behaviour that befits public scrutiny, there’s a great deal that does not.
To make everything ‘transparent’ is to lay bare our own follies and shortcomings. Does this humanise us or make us ever more vulnerable to ill-considered attacks? Furthermore, people have a legitimate interest in avoiding disclosure of personal circumstances that are nobody’s business.
Reality TV can be toxic. Imagine your entire life being one.
To add, transparency could make everyone more vulnerable. But some would claim that transparency will help to subvert prejudice and judgment. They believe that when all the skeletons we have laboured to hide in our closets are flung into the amphitheatre of public observance, all there’s left is the humanity of acceptance and mutual forgiveness.
Yet I think forgiveness has little to do with technological evolution and everything to do with the elevation of the human condition. As more people try to hide in the corner to prevent the public spotlight from shining on them, forgiveness will shrink and intolerance will grow. People are going to realise that their privacy is becoming non-existent and thus resent the intrusions.
Humanity, and therefore humans, are often riddled with bias. Modern society has not enabled us to be our most forgiving selves. It would be a leap to assume that as a society, we would simply embrace one another for our follies and vulnerabilities.
We are not God, but nor are we the Devil.
Nor should we need to be either. There is something intrinsically poetic about being granted with the possibility of greatness and the potentiality for damnation simultaneously. As humans, we could inspire hope, can’t we? Could we not pull on the oars and swing the tide? Couldn’t we pull back hard and find equilibrium after swimming close to the edge – even at least for a time? We have in the past, why not now?
Perchance and Probabilities.
And Snowden lives in Moscow.
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