We are unsafe. That is what our governments try to convince us while intruding into our privacy. We, the habitual victims, are much scrutinized while our attackers openly declare an interminable war against humanity. Our security is utterly prone to be punctured easily. Our privacy is being violated continually. Our life dwindles between two undesirable, yet inescapable, poles of privacy and security. Governments want everything about us: our physical features, our private relationships, our opinions, our locations and travel, and our behavior. Just a few of these demands are to be met – to remain secured, at least in perception!
Spying is not new at all. And a spy can well be a leader of a big country like Mr. Putin in Russia. But a spy may be completely helpless and may feel rootless like he perhaps experienced in Dresden in 1989 when public opinion raised in East Germany for reunification with its western counterpart and for moving away from the erstwhile Soviet Union (Mr. Putin had served as a junior KGB official there). Or perhaps, like the way the United States stares dumb in the face of agonizing atrocities and evil doings of ISIS in spite of the availability of all required intelligence. There is no respect for public opinions otherwise in this region that has been pushed into wilderness and anarchy, and has well been groomed into a breeding ground for violence and savagery around the globe. It’s just the numbness of statecraft when even the powerful feels helpless. It’s also a grave failure of Islamic religious guidance that roller-coasters into severe brutality and sadism.
One may argue that the entire exercise is just a ‘know it all, and no action’ effort; and natural trammels of dilemma are manifested – the knowledge of how to fly does not make you a bird. A notable exception, of course, is a thriving business by likes of Edward Snowden and Sarah Harrison. This over-emphasis on engaging personal data for security has provided ample fame for these individuals, and has thrown the cardinal issue from its rightful examination. Some may argue though that such individuals have ensured that people from every corner of globe discuss the issue today – with a mysterious fear of being in a despotic society.
I find immense comfort with the degree of freedom (read privacy) we enjoy in India. But this subtle delight blows away when I watch the endpoint of dissemination of information that strays entropically across the national boundaries.
At an individual level, people used to prefer to die with honour rather than living without. Honour inexplicably involves privacy apart from the social perception that is prevalent. Moreover, social perception changes, and consolidates around information that is partly or fully available in public domain. But then we now pee in public, and throw away the pictures from our bedrooms onto Internet. Where is privacy then? Rather, security may be the only intent today.