This week was about Encryption.
The notion of privacy became more important than ever after Snowden’s whistle-blowing about NSA (The Guardian 2013).
In this blog post, I will focus on the question, “why is privacy important?” “What’s wrong with collecting all the data?”
Snowden himself says that privacy matters because it allows people to decide who they are and how they want to be. I understood what he said as, if every motion of every human is recorded and analysed by someone, that person has the power to change how people behave. This is an authoritarian society and there is no freedom in it.
Without being controlled by an authority, people “naturally” change their behaviour if they know they are watched all the time. This panoptic state is another problem about the total surveillance. It is important for people to be able to act humanly without being coerced into doing so. For example if CCTVs are everywhere and people behave because they know they are watched, there is no way people can nurture their morality. In order for people to be able to autonomously act in a good way, the system must allow them to move around freely without any surveillance and to think about their own behaviour for themselves sometime.
Another reason why data collecting is bad is that it allows the government and corporations to make profits out of people’s unconscious movements. These new technologies which require people’s personal data to process the systems themselves are called “capture technologies” and they are very different to traditional surveillance technologies such as CCTV (Kitchen and Dodge 2011). With CCTV, people’s motions are captured through the device and authorities look at the recorded videos to take out people’s personal data that they need. With capture technologies, the systems will not process without people’s personal data in the first place. An example of these is the modern flight booking system. Without entering your name, passport details and credit card number, the system will not allow you to purchase a ticket.
So it is not only about NSA sneaking into people’s email accounts and computers but the nature of technologies we interact with everyday has significantly changed. For example the flight booking system I explained above probably will not disappear until this world is completely united. When there is no border, people can finally move around freely anywhere in the world and purchase flight tickets without putting their personal data. From this point of view, this privacy issue has much more deeper root than it seems and we should not just doubt the NSA and encrypt everything. The real problem actually comes from “doubt” and I will rather think about how we all could trust each other better.
THE GUARDIAN, 2013. NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden: ‘I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things’ – video [Online]. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2013/jun/09/nsa-whistleblower-edward-snowden-interview-video [Accessed: 26 Mar 2014].
THE GUARDIAN, 2013. Edward Snowden warns about loss of privacy in Christmas message – video [Online]. Available at http://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2013/dec/25/edward-snowden-christmas-message-video [Accessed: 26 Mar 2014].
KITCHEN, ROB AND DODGE, MARTIN, 2011. Code/space: Software and Everyday Life. The MIT Press.