“You Are Not Alone”
It all started way back. Beginning from day one when we were expelled from our mother’s womb, somebody was either listening or watching us – or both. Of course we didn’t know this at that time as we were mostly sleeping, pooping, or dining at our mother’s breast – too busy to notice or really even care. Later on, however, it did start to bother us if someone was watching when we had need to use a bathroom. This seemed to be the starting point when our need (or right?) for privacy became important to us. From this basic beginning other facets of our lives were soon added to our privacy zones: getting dressed or undressed in school locker rooms; squeezing zits; flossing; answering the door while still in our pajamas with no makeup or deodorant applied or hair combed; singing in the shower; and talking to oneself. And as the years have rolled by, we’ve added hundreds of other areas requiring privacy. In a nutshell, there is a ton of personal stuff we don’t want anyone to know about: we treasure our privacy!
But wait, there’s more to the story! Our so-called right to privacy is now under attack as never before! In this age of political correctness, “transparency,” is now declared as absolutely sacrosanct with no hiding places allowed for prejudices, secrets, past mistakes, and even daydreams. The current political season has underscored this mandatory openness in spades. If you, Mr. Candidate, as an eighth grader, had even belched during the Monsignor’s Homily, you can be sure that one of your opponents will bring this mishap up at the next debate! Four known bankruptcies is nothing compared to what went on in the back seat of your Dad’s auto some forty-five years ago.
The issues of privacy and transparency, as discussed above, (important as they are however), lead to an even bigger crossroads: the intrusion into the lives of each person that has come about through the phenomenal explosion of technology, (known as the Information Age), in the past thirty years. With the advent of the computer, the Internet, email, smart phones, CCTV surveillance systems, satellite eye-in-the-sky, blue tooth, directional microphones, and many other esoteric devices, it is now possible to track an individual around the clock. How do I know this? It is because I have read a whole bunch of mystery/spy novels available at our local library! Get a copy of The God’s eye View and you will see what I mean. You can run, but you cannot hide!
The pro case for Intrusive Surveillance: In order for the State to thoroughly protect its’ citizens from evil-doers, it is necessary for it – the State and its’ Law Enforcement agencies – to keep an eye and an ear on everybody, day and night. This by itself is not a bad idea if it is used with divine administration. If a surveillance camera can catch on a digital tape bad guy buying guns and ammo that our snitch said he was doing in order to rob the local bank, allowing the police to nab him before he shot someone at the bank, we whole heartedly applaud this action. If we can intercept a Jihadist before he poisons our water supply, this is a good thing.
On the other hand, Pervasive Surveillance can and does put personal information in the hands of governmental authorities, trusting that these are good hands. The history of mankind indicates however, that a certain amount of skepticism about such trust here is warranted. Also, a larger problem exists in that Pervasive Surveillance technology is not just the property of the “good” guys, but as we are learning all too well – the bad guys also know how to use it to our peril. Our nation is in the middle of a debate as to what is acceptable to keep from the government – and also the sneaky hackers – over the use of encryption technology between the FBI and Apple. This is a knotty issue with good arguments on both sides.
The truth be told, however, that all this technology fuss started with our parents trying to be helpful by protecting us from the boogeyman who lived in our bedroom closet, when they installed a baby monitor in our room. This is just another case of something meant for good but ending with it biting us in the butt, the old unintended consequence principle at work.