Okay, I admit it, the title is just to grab readers. I’m actually going to spend a good deal of this post arguing the exact reverse of the title’s premise, because as things are now, letting corporate entities repackage our lives like tasty little digital tacos is a really terrible idea, and only spend a little time pontificating.
Just don’t get me started on the wholesale abuse and misuse of power that our “enlightened” allegedly democratically elected governments get up to. Basically, Snowden is a hero, and the whole case against Julian Assange needs to be thrown out because right now I simply do not credit the powers that be with any integrity when it comes to people who unearth the quite frankly criminal and horrendous things that powerful entities get up to when they think they’ve scared off anybody who might tell. I don’t believe in the integrity of the system being used against either of these two people, and when the system cannot be trusted, then there can be no justice within it.
Anyway, onto “spying”:
Today, when a corporate entity like facebook stomps all over privacy, it does it because putting a little tag on your ear and branding your digital flank is how they live – you’re cattle for the data-herders. Meat, and little more. Income. Google does it, Facebook does it, Microsoft does it… basically, the thing you need to remember is if you’re not paying for the service, then you’re what’s being sold. And when faceless, uncaring corporations or your government has all the rights and powers to take all your data and keep it, and sift through it at will, and make assumptions, and decide things about what you have done and can do (whether you have or haven’t, if the system decides you have, it’s often ridiculously difficult to persuade it that you didn’t), then you the little person is at a serious disadvantage.
And that’s the thing. We’re living in a world where money is power and power rules. If a government or other major entity wants to do something, then all its trumpeting of humans rights to the contrary, it will do it, and fighting that eminent domain is getting harder and harder, thanks to the new, powerful tools that our connected lives give it. Before, people could hide. Now, you’re online through cooperative systems, known and tagged through well-defined, pliant platforms and any time you try to reinvent yourself for any reason, you will get hooked back up with your old life. The problem there is two-fold: your old life may not be your own (mistaken or stolen identities are getting hard to untangle) and your past can be changed at the push of a button (so, really, the same problem with a new twist – deliberate misinformation).
So why is spying ever good? And when is privacy over-rated?
Well, spying isn’t a problem when there is nothing to hide. Quite apart from how everybody, ever, has things that they don’t want to share with the rest of the world, when governments and systems are no longer run at the behest of flawed, greedy, selfish people and are instead administered by uncaring, indifferent, clinical machines, then there won’t be an issue with corporations misusing your data because there won’t be any point in doing so.
I’m talking, of course, about a future where the faceless systems that guard our digital data are not at the beck and call of humanity at all. A future where our society is administered by the capable rather than the rich and powerful.
In that future, it could very well be that your every move is meticulously tracked, that some database somewhere knows what you had for breakfast, what colour underwear you’re wearing and just how long you spent sipping coffee in that Starbucks five minutes ago.
But it won’t care. And this information won’t be used against you. And this information won’t be tampered with – because there will be checks and balances put in place to make sure it won’t be tampered with, or that if it is, it will be obvious.
There won’t be “privacy” in the same way we think of it now, as so much data about our personal, private and public lives will be on tap, all the time… but it won’t matter.
And why won’t it matter?
It won’t matter, I hope, because those same tools of observation will have been turned against everyone. Including the rich and powerful, who today are the first to complain about a need for privacy and respect. And when it becomes totally ingrained in the minds of the public that the rich and powerful are the ones who benefit from lopsided privacy – they benefit when there is privacy for all and they benefit when there is privacy only for special people (like today) – then real laws will replace the lip-service we pay them today. Because once we take greedy, suspicious, power-hungry humans out of the loop, then machines that don’t care will not discriminate.
When that day comes, crime will be incredibly easy to solve because people everywhere will have cameras on them all the time – just crowd-source the feed and blam! crooks apprehended. There will be no police abuse because blam! proof positive from a thousand eyes. There will be no corruption because the systems that count where money goes and comes from will tell us when the CIA are supplying guns with drugs money as much as when some rogue trader suddenly makes ten billion dollars overnight and a bank goes tits up. And that’s just for starters. The synergies that there could be with early diagnosis of disease, pre-emptive medical care in general, and so on are staggering, when all the data that there is can be sifted through and the real benefits can be found for everyone, everywhere, at the push of a button.
Or maybe the whole idea is as far-fetched and ridiculous as the title of this post?
Either way, keep your data safe, campaign for public oversight, do not let the powers that be hide and distract, do not let public servants become the gatekeepers of your rights, force them to be their champion. Take what belongs to you. It’s hard work, but it’s worth it.
Remember, the reason that America knows Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons is because all nuclear power stations are designed to create nuclear weapon-grade material, not electricity (the latter is just a happy side-effect).
And the reason that America and Australia don’t use Chinese Huawei software is because they fear that a government like China’s will plant backdoors in Huawei’s software and attempt to infiltrate their digital systems. Just like America did to Huawei.
And this isn’t a USA-bashing post, all governments everywhere do a fantastic job of being crooked, lying, deceitful, self-interested scumbags, because entities have no conscience. People have conscience, but we pay them to be popular, not to be efficient, and even in the best cases, the popular don’t make good decisions when they’re trying to be popular instead of efficient.