Call me a conspiracy theorist or whatever, I have always insisted that telephone and online activities were being monitored. My position was reinforced when the news of the US government’s monitoring programme, PRISM, broke. I see people screaming and gnashing their teeth, and I am wondering, what were they thinking before? One really has to be naive to assume that we live in a free and fair world. Government monitoring has been going on for thousands of years. Newer technology only makes it easier. Big Brother is real.
This morning, I tweeted something about a telephone privacy issue this morning, and a friend of mine responded with this:
@mister_mobility I think we all should be careful.. Anything not meant for the 3rd party shouldn’t be said over wire.
— Duchess Almaz Lita(@SheCrownLita) June 9, 2013
In my opinion, this is practically impossible. The telephone and the internet are how we live (read: communicate) today. When you don’t want a 3rd party to know something, you share it via Twitter DM, Facebook Messaging, WhatsApp and Viber. We make discreet telephone calls. Yet; these are either already being monitored or will be monitored sooner or later. I doubt though that SheCrownLita’s suggestion can be 100% implemented in today’s world.
Here are my thoughts on the whole subject:
1. Government monitoring has always been around and will not stop now. I think that people have let the euphoria of democracy fool them that things will be different.
2. Government monitoring will get worse. See how Saudi Arabia and other countries are insisting that messaging services have a local server so they can sift through communications.
3. We will fight against the trend, but we will not win. Government will keep monitoring.
4. It is time to say goodbye to the sort of privacy that we once had. Electronic communications has changed the game. Anything you say or send over a messaging can be read. Do we stop communicating private matters? Nope. We are likely going to have to redefine what privacy means.
For those of us who have no criminal intent and/or activities, we are in the clear to a certain extent. Yet, even innocent or non-criminal personal information can be a powerful weapon in the hands of bad people (and not everyone in government is good). I know very well how an innocent private conversation can become not-so-innocent once pushed into the open or accessed by someone it was not intended for. The fears about this loss of privacy are real. Still, it does not seem to me like much can be done about it.
There was a time back in Roman times when defecating was not as private as we know it today. Public latrines had long bench-like seats with keyhole-shaped openings cut in rows and offered little privacy. As a matter of fact, public latrines became places to socialise back then. Okay, I know that sounds gross to us, but truth is that society keeps evolving. I really would love to see a situation where we fight this monitoring thing AND win. But all trends suggest strongly that it is a lost cause. We must evolve and adapt. I am sure that the really geeky and techie types can find ways to evade monitoring for brief periods, but the majority of users do not belong in that class. The alternative is to go the route of native communications – get off the phone, email and social media. Basically, go back to the stone age.
What are your thoughts? How do you see the telephone and online privacy battle playing out? What can citizens do to protect themselves?