2011-11-05

Privacy and control

Technology is everywhere, always watching, always tracking, and always within reach. Meaning, our gadgets have or will be taking on qualities commonly associated with gods: omnipresence, omniscience, and omnipotence. In the 2006 film V for Vendetta, a man wearing a Guy Fawkes mask fought against the control of an oppressive system. As a result of that film, "the use of stylised Guy Fawkes masks, with moustache and pointed beard, has become widespread internationally among groups protesting against politicians, banks and financial institutions. The masks both conceal the identity of individuals and demonstrate their commitment to a shared cause." [Guy Fawkes Mask - Wikipedia]


Some people view the rise of our god-like technology with terror; should we thus all dawn Guy Fawkes' masks and attempt to hide from our digital overlords? Or should we accept and embrace this fact and attempt to mold it?

I recently watched the TED talk "FBI, here I am!" by Hasan Elahi, an Associate Professor at the University of Maryland and an interdisciplinary media artist.
In the talk, Hasan articulates his opinion -- with which I agree -- on data, privacy, and control:
"I've come to the conclusion that the way you protect your privacy -- particularly in an era where everything is catalogued and everything is archived and evething is recorded -- there's no need to delete information anymore. So, what do you do when everything is out there? Well, you have to take control of it. If I give you this information directly, it's a very different type of identity than if you were to try and go through a get bits and pieces."
I welcome the discerning consumption of information, as I discussed in my previous article touching on the subject of "A Hierarchy to Understanding". So, as the omnipresent technology logs my words, locations, and activities, it gathers a glimpse of my identity, but what you see is not the whole of what makes me who I am. To echo some of Hasan's words, "In this barrage of noise that I'm putting out, I actually live an incredibly anonymous and private life; you know very little about me, actually."

Consider this: Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How. These are the beginnings of how we gather data; the investigative questions we all learn at an early age.
An outside observer can only gather some data through their own perspective: Who, What, When, Where, and How. You'll notice though that a fundamental question cannot be answered with dry data: Why. If you've been reading recently, you'll know that the "Why" is of highest importance when it comes to understanding and actualization. The "Why" is what is formed individually. It is the "Why" that creates our psychology, personality, opinions, motivations, cravings, and connections.

I am unafraid of the omnipresence of technology because I am more than the facts and data amassed. I choose not to attempt to hide the cataloging of my data because I try to never act without intention. Let me be entirely clear about another opinion I have of data and surveillance as it relates to freedom. There are those who would choose to use the gathering of data as a way to prevent others from having the freedom to act of their own will. This is never OK. In my opinion, a person should be allowed to act however they choose; as long as those actions do not prevent another person from making their own -- possibly opposing -- choice.

I also acknowledge the courage of those who choose to exercise their own freedoms even if those choices result in consequences born of ill-conceived systems of control. (Again, I reiterate that the initial choice must not hinder the freedoms of others.) For example, it is currently illegal (meaning, there is a law on the books) to drive a black car on Sundays in Denver, Colorado. In my opinion, choosing to drive a black car on Sunday does not take away the freedom of others. Therefore, I respect those individuals who choose to ignore such a strange law and drive their vehicle of choice on Sunday. Let it also be said that I greatly respect the law enforcement officers who choose to ignore the law and therefore do not enforce the legal penalty currently dictated by the system.

In this technology-dominated world, true privacy is a result of control and intention. Some may choose to disseminate the details of their every bathroom visit, others may choose to disclose nothing, but the nature of self is not in what you do and who is aware of it; it is in why you do it and how you define yourself as a result. In actuality, I know no more about the "Shitter Twitter" [Urban Dictionary] than I do about the man hiding behind the figurative curtain, what I do know is how they have chosen to present themselves to me. The beauty of freedom is that you may choose to disagree with me on any and all of this and I respect your choice to do so.
Post a Comment