Hushmail: So Long Privacy, I Hardly Knew You

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telegraphmap.gifFinding out that my Hushmail messages aren't as private as I thought they were makes me nostalgic (and pissed, of course).

When I studied abroad in Thailand as an undergrad I began to realize what made me U.S. American. Though I was full of youthful certainty about everything that was wrong with the U.S., and expected that my time in Prothet Thai would only reveal the ways our foreign policy and globalization generally had damaged the country, I unexpectedly came face to face with my own Americanness.

"Surprise radical, young know-it-all," nearly all of my experiences seemed to say. "Most of what you value dearly is ingrained in your culture! American Culture! Ha!" The ensuing identity crisis was long and ugly.

The Thais didn't have a word for privacy. Entering a room without knocking and going through someone else's drawers or bags is completely acceptable. This was simply a cultural difference and we needed to adjust. There were many more, of course. Many predilections I attributed to individuality were really cultural: a few include a belief in the concept of justice, strong customer service expectations, and a deep need for privacy. (I'm not dissing Thai culture -- just pointing out differences.)

I wrote my first email just before flying to Thailand in 1997. My how communication and privacy expectations have changed in ten years.

I realize now that I was a silly pants for ever thinking private Internet use was possible. When I found out how long gmail stored my messages, and that just about anyone with remedial hacking abilities could access unencrypted mail, Hushmail became my new private communications friend. Tonight I discover that it too is susceptible to my government's data-gathering tentacles.

It's not about wanting to sell drugs in secret. It's not about hatching super secret plots for world domination. It's about wanting to send a communication to an intended recipient and no one else.

Remember the Valentine's boxes we made in elementary school? A social compact, an almost universally adhered to etiquette, prevented nosy fellow 4th graders from reaching in and opening those miniature envelopes. Or notes passed between classes? If you lost them, or didn't conceal them carefully, it was your own damn fault.

In an age of texting, IMing, emailing, social networking, and reality TV, maybe "the kids today" don't mind spooky voyeurs?

I mind. Just as I felt ashamed of the U.S. military's role in the proliferation of the Thai sex industry, I am deeply ashamed of the Iraq debacle. But I'm still an American. Deciding individually what we want public and private was a part of the culture I grew up in. It's part of being American. We rely so completely now on electronic communication that we deserve to expect some privacy.

Has our culture shifted so much? Am I an old fogy at 32?


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William Mac said:

This is a fantastic article. I wrote an article once for the music magazine I work for (SIR Magazine) called "Read The Fine Print" although it was on Internet music rights, I talked about the Terms and Agreements people agree to without reading and how they specifically point out that all of your information will be subject to use and third party viewing. In most cases this even includes business plans, creative work like film scripts, music and so on. At any time these can be taken away and used, apparently.

Your short comment on the Thai sex trade is also a big thing I've been researching. A friend of mine travels around the world exposing the Sex Slavery Trade and has made many wonderful documentaries in the process.

Keep up the good work,

-William Mac

Milligence said:

It's about documentation. There is an phony cynicism growing where it's becoming trendy to turn up one's nose to requests for documentation. Imagine "If you've got nothing to hide..." as a fashion statement. Puke.

That is what it is about.

Don't sweat it. The barging-in culture is older than the Enlightenment and the Renaissance. They're the old fogeys who can't bear to lose that precious ego blanket of compromising for the sake of compromising. Compromisers of this sort are every bit as shallow as art critics.

I'll pull a Godiva the next time I hear someone say "If you've got nothing to hide..." I'm 240 lbs of hairy man and I'm almost angry enough to do it.

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Six Hours A Week Is:

A coping strategy, advocacy outlet, and form of protection. My life has been nearly destroyed by the unconstitutional practices of politically/socially-motivated private intelligence contractors and the corruption and cronyism that allow them. Apparently because I speak out in ways that prioritize the little guy and human and environmental health above gargantuan profit margins, and believe that facts are as important as PR spin, I was someone who had to be completely discredited. In 2007, after a few months of a surreal and relentless invasion of privacy and dignity, I started to spend six hours each week researching, communicating about, and advocating legal and ethical responses to assaults on our shared democratic and republican ideals. For most of that time I was writing from the perspective of someone whose life was manipulated into a constant state of terror and emergency. In 2010, many of the array of entrapment attempts seem to have failed and it seems no longer possible to get away with such excessive, obvious harassment and overt interference. As we take more practical steps to address what has been allowed to happen to my family, we do expect to see some more harassment and intimidation. But I should be able to chronicle it from a more measured perspective, rather than that of someone in constant fear. Part of me would like to go back and delete earlier posts, because even I find them hard to relate to in some ways. But this blog has been one of our only forms of protection as everyone in any official capacity ignored the truth and tried to spin and frame us into the troublemakers and perpetrators of one form or another. So I leave it up as a form of protection, a record of what has occurred, and (with luck) the account of our way back to credibility and some form of legitimate justice. All content on this site is property of Kyeann Sayer. All rights reserved.

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This page contains a single entry by Kyeann published on November 20, 2007 2:33 AM.

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