I’m a big tech guy, and I love the latest in phone technology. I recently read about a phone that apparently is so secure that even NSA won’t be able to hack it. At first, I thought “this is awesome”, but then I thought, “Why should we need it? Has privacy really become a thing of the past?”
The answer is: probably, although I’d like to think not. A large body of evidence supports this answer: from US Navy malware capable of turning your phone against you as a spy cam, and the almost ubiquitous tracking of our public movements through phones and cameras. If a reasonable expectation of privacy really is a thing of the past, then people like Jullian Assange and Edward Snowden are really just the beginning of a long list of people who will expose and oppose intrusive actions forced onto all by those with power. More people will rise up as freedoms continue to be restricted, and actions of civil disobedience will likely increase and intensify.
The governments of the world need to understand that they (and thus all) benefit from working honestly with their citizens instead of against them. Oxford dictionary describes “privacy” as “the state or condition of being free from being observed or disturbed by other people.” Privacy is important from youth all the way into adulthood, as a way of helping understand individuality.
When a person is growing up and trying on different identities, privacy is essential in development of character, talents, and individuality. Various studies have already been undertaken which show that being surveyed constantly and unexpectedly forces people to act and even think in ways congruent to societal norms and expectations; it creates drone like behavior which I am sure some Orwellian oriented states like.
The phenomena is called panopticism, where people are virtually forced to operate in a particular fashion under the fear that they are being monitored; it has profound psychological effects on the human mind and behavior. Under these circumstances, people “self-regulate” themselves towards the expectations of those watching as opposed to their personal preferences. The costs of lower performance and decreased mental health (without even discussing the decrease in open displays of “unlicensed” creativity), are seen by many governments to be of little value when compared with increasing their personal safety. The insulation of governments and power interests from the people is given a far higher regard than the well-being or health of the people.
Most importantly, mass surveillance effectively tells the people being watched: the government doesn’t trust you. But, how can someone protect you adequately if they don’t even trust you? If the government doesn’t trust its citizens then how can its citizens trust them? Human beings have an inalienable right to operate on their own without unjust, unwanted or unnecessary pressure and influence from others, and I would argue that it’s the government’s responsibility to protect that freedom.
When the heads of state or other government factions deem it ok to spy and monitor people (let alone hundreds of millions or billions of people) without informing them, and without a reasonable cause, you are effectively telling your citizens that they are not worthy or responsible enough to act in their own capacity without infraction. The government is telling its citizens that it distrusts them so much that their reduction in performance and mental health is acceptable.
We must ask ourselves, are we really not worthy of self fulfillment and autonomy? Are all our actions and thus our minds subject to the control of a few? Is the government or a company better or more responsible than you?
These measures do not just tell people what they cannot do, but are actually a direct assault on their minds: that’s exactly what you do when you don’t give someone the privacy necessary for freedom of thought and action without the threat of being monitored and labeled a criminal or subversive; that’s control not protection. If a government can’t offer its citizens adequate protection without limiting freedom , and if a government can’t provide a safe environment for its citizens while giving them their own space, then they are a not acting in the best interest of the citizens. Even when you have nothing to hide being monitored still causes harm even on the most fundamental level, as error is always bound to occur.
Many companies and governments work closely together, especially in regard your internet data. Companies like Facebook and Yahoo make it policy to store and even sell your information to untold ends, but there are some who do not (like now defunct Lavabit). Corporate intrusion is just as bad as government intrusion. The United States isn’t the only government seeking to acquire secure data and personal information on millions of people, and the software being used to catalogue and sort the information are always improving. Make sure you are doing due diligence to protect yourself, where at all possible, and demand nothing less than systemic change.