We Accept - Even Welcome - Privacy Loss

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Giving up privacy has been normalized to a paradoxical degree.

On the one hand, few Americans seem to know that relative to most of the developed world, ours is a surveillance society nearing the level of Russia or China. On the other hand, we have come to accept daily incursions on our privacy and other basic rights for the sake of convenience or "safety."

For someone like me, in her early thirties, there has been a gradual and bumpy trajectory from an expectation of privacy at my jr. hight locker, to getting used to being filmed at the ATM, to feeling like an out-of-touch old lady because I want my emails to be private.

What about kids marinating in the camera-filled, reality TV existence we've created for them? As Allison Orr of Australia's EDemocracy notes:

... A recent experience has led me to believe that we are eager to embrace surveillance if it provides us with some sort of convenience. Far from rebelling against the increasing intrusion into our privacy, we are keen to embrace it...

I was recently talking to a fellow mother of a young child, inquiring how her son is doing at his new daycare. After a few pronouncements on the excellence of the institution she told me the most extraordinary thing: she said the main reason she chose this place was because it provides a webcam of the school, allowing her to log on to a website during the day to see her child at play. This daycare has cameras pointing at the children all day, every day - everywhere, but not in the toilets. The film is then streamed live to a website.

Imagine the expectations of kids growing up under the gaze of school and nanny cams, filmed in nearly every retail space, passing through metal detectors to get to class, and using un-private electronic communications as an essential aspect of social life?

If my generation, some nebulous "X" or "Y" or whatever, with its expectation of privacy, isn't filling Senators' offices or marching over illegal wiretapping and massive data-mining, are we all lost? What kind of dystopian "normal" are we leaving behind?


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The Roman Empire did not arise because a despot forced it onto the people. It was welcomed by a mob of the needy, fed and made prosperous by a leader who promised security and stability. Napoleon changed the fortunes of a chaotic France and instituted order and a newfound wealth. Now Putin has made himself Princeps of Russia by way of not only coercion but by helping stabilize a troubled economy. It should be no wonder that our own strange oligarchy will rise to power not by violence or coercion but by offering us solutions to our problems (albeit problems that frequently did not exist until their solution was created), and what is more fitting for our media-obsessed nation than the tyranny of cameras. ATM cameras protect us from crime. We may observe our children at play. Police stops are recorded to protect both the police and our civil liberties. Then there are the terrorists, always the terrorists. This is not merely the same old rhetoric of fear which has driven despots to power and more than TV ads are the same old spiels of the snake oil salesman or the hocker at the fair. Recorded, everyone becomes a player in a simulation. How do we behave when we know we are being watched? Will our children, observed and monitored at all times, ever learn to express themselves as though they were alone? I'm sorry to rant, Kyeann, but these are the things that truly make me afraid. I wonder if Marlowe felt this way, eyes everywhere watching for you to slip up and betray your lack of faith in the machine.

A story:
A man I knew in D.C. was a wealthy restaurant owner. In his new establishment he placed remote-controlled webcams so that he could observe his staff during his frequent business trips to Hong-Kong. These cameras could zoom in on individual plates of food to ensure proper plating and service. Once, two friends of his were dining in his restaurant and having an argument. Observing from Hong-Kong, he called the restaurant and had the hostess take a portable phone to the table where his disembodied voice then insisted that they reconcile and enjoy their dinner. Everyone laughed. In most versions of an old Greek story that I've heard, Pandora's Box was exquisitely beautiful.

Ah, the old panopticon! We are definitely--and eagerly--instilling in ourselves/our minds the self-surveillance that the panopticon intended to do(or at least as Foucault reasoned). I suppose, we can only pat ourselves on the back and say, "At least, we have less public cameras than the British do!" Of course, that may no longer be true.

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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.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Kyeann published on February 20, 2008 12:06 AM.

No FISA Vote? Well. Hillary Lost This White Lady Today. was the previous entry in this blog.

"The Moment of Truth" ~ Fetishising Honesty in an Age of Deceit is the next entry in this blog.

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