It seems rather strange to think of privacy as a dangerous concept. But governments, worldwide, would have you believe that it is, and generally have been highly effective in convincing their citizens that privacy has limited individual benefits. Moreover, governments have been successful, in large part, in convincing people that too much privacy has serious social and security implications.
To experience this erosion of individual privacy in action all you need do is walk anywhere, drive anywhere, and you will be recorded with, or without, your knowledge or permission. Your behavior and your activities will be noted, and in many instances stored for later retrieval. You need go no further than your own home town.
Police in London, England, despite its thousands of CCTV cameras, estimated last year that just 3% of crimes were solved by CCTV. All the while however, restrictions on invasion of individual privacy were thrown out the window. Despite this lack of effectiveness, London continues to add more cameras.
Virtually ever method of communication, including telephones and computers, can be, and are in fact, monitored by governments for “trigger” words or phrases. Web sites, email chats, and VOIP conversations are monitored for “suspicious” conversations, or activities.
It seems that most people (particularly younger people), have come to terms with living in this climate of little or no privacy; of uber surveillance – since we have been conditioned to believe that there is nothing we can do to change this reality.
The aftermath of September 11, 2001, has guaranteed that resistance to the government enforced surveillance society we now live in, is viewed with suspicion and hostility. Not only by government, but by individuals themselves. We are now the dogs in a Pavlovian experience – conditioning works.
I count myself amongst those who are genuinely concerned that the massive amounts of government data collection presents threats to our civil liberties and human rights – with good reason, I believe.
The idea that social control in the guise of patriotism, enhancement of security, and the protection of democracy is effective, is not new. Propaganda is a well established tool used to convince people to subvert their own best interests.
Those who are aware of history, a diminishing percentage of the population it seems to me, are familiar with Joseph Goebbels. Goebbels’s skillful use of propaganda ( a lie by any other name), helped Adolf Hitler acquire and maintain power, leading ultimately to World War 2.
In the final analysis, allowing government unrestricted control of our lives has proven, and will prove once again, to be disastrous. Thomas Jefferson, 200 years ago, had something to say on this issue of government power when he stated, “Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny”.
The continuing erosion of our right to privacy cannot lead to a positive outcome. Democracy, as many of us have defined it in the past, is undergoing profound changes as we stand by and watch; participants in our own demise.
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