Do We Really Want to Go There?
The price of surveillance.
Most of us have become resigned to a future without privacy, a future where thousands of nameless government bureaucrats, corporate key punchers, and law enforcement sociopaths can look up our most personal information with a few clicks. Nothing we say, write, or do is private in this new world of electronic surveillance, data collection, data aggregation, and access control. The government doesn't need to search your home to know what is in it. They can just check your credit card and check card purchases. Countless nosy people can find out what you read, what you search for on the web, who you send emails to, who you call on your cell phone, what it says in you medical records. You are basically an open book.
You know that kinky thing you search for on the Internet? Well, it's in a database somewhere linked with the rest of the information the world has collected on you. How about those emails you accessed from your office, though they came in on your "private" account, your system administrator has either read it or will if he or she ever finds some reason (or simply has an impulse) to do so. There is nothing that you have done, purchased, or looked into that cannot be found out.
If you've lived for a long time, you already know how evil and petty some people can be. Perhaps an ex-lover has it in for you and you don't know it. She may work for law enforcement now and be looking up dirt she can send to your employer. If she's not in law enforcement, she may work for an ISP, a telephone company, a health insurance company, or countless other agencies and/or corporations that have access to your most personal information. If she's not working for any of the aforementioned, someone in her family or one of her friends may be. You do know that all police officers, without exception, violate the law and snoop for information on the friends, work associates, and neighbors of themselves, their family, and their friends, don't you? They do this kind of thing all the time. Even if you've never been arrested or even charged with a crime, there may be false accusations in those records. Accusations that the district attorney dismissed as baseless. Nevertheless, they are there in your police rap sheet. You don't even know it. The ex-lover silently stalking you, however, does know and she's using it to destroy your life.
You might be under the false illusion that people put in positions of responsibility and authority have a higher ethical standard than the rest of us and can be trusted. If you think this, you need help, quickly. The higher you go up any hierarchy, the more morally corrupt the occupiers of stratified positions. At the very top, you will always find a narcissistic sociopath with criminal impulses. Corrupt, unethical, and criminally inclined people are more likely to seek positions where they can abuse their access to information and the power they yield to advance themselves, their families, and their friends. The more "influential" people you know, the more endangered you are of their abuses of power. Of all the people I have known in my life, the most famous of all have always been the most corrupt, unscrupulous, and self serving.
In this new world in which we live, meritocracy is dead. Those in power will do anything they can to retain their power. Those who advance on their skill, talent, ability, honesty, hard work, or vision will have their privacy violated, skeletons dug up or invented, and then find themselves destroyed. Our new electronic age of ubiquitous, complete, and never forgotten data collection, guarantees that a new dark age of dictatorship by the scummiest amongst us is not only inevitable, but here already.
If we should seek to liberate ourselves from this, we would need more than a revolution. We would need to destroy these databases which have accrued so much information about all of us. We would need to destroy the systems that collect the information. However, even if we did these things, we could never be sure that all the data was destroyed. The best we could do, in addition to destroying the data, is to change our names. We would need to discard our identities and begin anew.
Such a destruction of the data that society has aggregated would imperil us, you might think. If you do think this, you would be wrong. No fly lists do not keep us safe from hijackers. The only things that keep us safe from hijackers are aircraft designed to prevent takeovers by hijackers, physical security at the gate which prevents destructive devices and weapons from being carried on board, and passengers willing to defy and resist hijackers. (Better than that would be an effort to eliminate the conditions that compel people to resort to terrorism.) The no fly list does nothing to protect us. If anything, it makes us less prepared for the possibility that someone allowed to fly is a danger. The no fly list, however, does provide something. It provides the government and all of the self serving sociopaths attracted to its employment with the ability to torment us, constrain us, terrify us, and, of course, tax us to pay for it. That is all the no fly list does. It hands power over to the lessor amongst us who seek power.
Now, you might suppose collecting data helps the credit system work. If you believe that, you will have a hard time explaining our current credit crisis. Banks are collapsing because they don't know how to use that information to give out loans that will be repaid. They do know how to hand that information over to the government, though, where it is aggregated with all the rest of the information that is delightfully fun to snoop through for your stalker, or neighbor, or employer, or identity thief. Besides, who's money is it that they loan out anyway? They loan out your money. That's where it must come from, since you're the one bailing out the banks who made bad loans.
We've reached a point where reflection is required. Is it not better to do away with all of this data than to continue collecting it? There is truth to the dictum: "Information is power." A democracy is supposed to be founded on the Power of the People and not on the government's power to blackmail, manipulate, control, deny, and permit. Shakespeare wrote, "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers," but we would need to start before the lawyers and make "The first thing we do, let's delete all the data" our starting point, for nothing less would enable us to go forward. It's something to think about.
contribute to this article
contribute to this article
add comment to discussion