7/31/2013

The End of Privacy

During the coming years of the 21st century, it is quite likely that privacy, both as an unquestioned right and as a realm of daily being, will have little value to most people. The unrestrained acceptance (and constant use) of digital technology, particularly in the everyday guise of computers and portable devices, already has degraded much of the general understanding of what it means to live, and to think, in a private way. Halfway through the first quarter of the 21st century, we have entered a prevailing condition of perpetual observation, in which it has become extremely difficult for anyone to maintain sole ownership over their thoughts, opinions, and activities.

In June, 2013, when it became widely known (as a result of information provided to the press by Edward Snowden, a former worker at the Central Intelligence Agency) that the National Security Agency was using electronic means to spy on millions of American citizens, the underhanded intentions of President Barack Obama were starkly revealed. It seems that we now are witnessing the end of privacy. Under the always watchful eyes of the NSA and other malicious eavesdroppers, no one is entirely safe from unlawful detection, and nothing is sacred. If every part of our lives must be available for stealthy examination by governments (and by the corporations that control governments), then how much of ourselves will belong, completely and straightforwardly, to us?

When every conversation that we have on a telephone is collected, every email that we send is open to surreptitious perusal, every purchase that we make with a credit card is tracked, and every word or photograph that we post online is held against us, then we clearly are not being treated as free citizens. The unsavory servants of Big Brother are everywhere, defending us (or so they would have us believe) from the sinister actions of "terrorists," but more likely engaged in the unprincipled defense of their own wealth and power. Any person who says or does anything that might be construed as "suspicious" (or, more truthfully, as "contrary to the self-serving purposes of the corporate state") will soon be caught unawares, and can quickly be singled out for a closer look, if our hidden masters deem it to be necessary.

We are losing something that is essential to the preservation of our humanity. If we do not truly possess our own thoughts, our own feelings, our own experiences, and our own memories, then what element of ourselves do we truly possess? Is it proper for our leaders to regard us as potential enemies, with no reason or justification? Is it advisable that the private moments of our lives should be crudely offered, without our consent and without our knowledge, as cheap tools for ruthless marketers? How much more of our privacy, and how much more of our freedom (assuming that any actually remains), must be taken away, before the masses finally are moved to resist? Will they never step out of their current stupor, and seek to take back that which has been stolen from them?