Antipodean Angst – part 5

Privacy – Fantasy or Reality

What does privacy have to do with the health of our society?

Privacy is, at times, a hotly contested concept, as it the right to privacy, how much privacy is warranted, and who is allowed privacy as a civil right. Additionally, the right for government to monitor population in what depth and degree, and to what segments of society can be monitored in the interests of public or national security.

Again, the current times we are living through in 2020 has at times raised these issues.

People expect and demand their right to privacy. There are laws that enshrine and protect our right to privacy. Yet people freely give away their privacy, sometimes as it suits, other times by the decisions of others. If the impact of giving away privacy is not desirous in what was hoped to be achieved, they then decry the impacts and attempt to stand on the very rights they gave away. Sometimes the right to privacy is the wall that a person hides behind.

Privacy then is subjective to opinion or circumstance.

Some common beliefs are that if you exist in the public arena then you are not deserving of the right to privacy, regardless of if that is political, celebrity, self-promotion, or being exposed for an action committed whether good or evil.

In recent times there has been outcry about quarantine breakers who are subjectively exposed or protected by the media. The public psyche on one hand applauds and vilifies the exposition or protection of these people and there is no reason to it.

Politicians subjectively have their private lives exposed which at times seem linked to their popularity. One public figure can have a holiday and yet another cannot. One is photographed in their private lives and that is fine while if this is done to another then it is the rankest invasion of privacy. Sometimes the public figure exposes themselves for a variety of reasons, all of which are designed as a means to an end.

Therefore, the right to privacy is subjective to the individual and public mindset at any given moment in time and relative to the person involved.

We live in a society where technology has equipped people with the means to film each other and put that footage in the public arena without permission. We live in a society that is abundant with surveillance cameras that can and do track the most mundane of activities. We live in a society that has intelligence organisations that can and does monitor people based on subjective decisions. We live in a society that has a media that has a skewed morality on what constitutes the public interest.

It is ironic to consider that privacy is enshrined in law and yet the application of privacy has a random, subjective application. Perhaps this is the human condition or the human desire for something forbidden or salacious that overrides the rights of the few or the one for the many.

A recent example is the Victorian government was found to have asked the military for surveillance drones to monitor public spaces. These are the same drones used by the military in military operations and are far superior to what civilians can purchase. The military wisely turned them down as it was not ‘fit for purpose’.

What was not mentioned is the abundance of security cameras and the like already allow for monitoring the public but in a more limited way, and a somewhat more invasive way, than a drone designed specifically for surveillance in military applications.

 The questions then are why did this state government want this and what department within government actually made the request? One other question is did other state governments make similar requests?

How in a society would this enhance the containment of a virus during a pandemic when there are already a multiplicity of measures in place to monitor those in quarantine and the movements of the public in line with the restrictions already in place to control the movement of people?

The conclusion can be viewed as somewhat sinister in that it was a test by that state government to see how far they could go in monitoring their population. This conclusion can be determined by the sheer amount of existing surveillance already emplaced in society and that a military drone would actually be more limited in its surveillance abilities on broad scale population. It would instead be targeted surveillance.

To imagine that this could have been a massive and gross invasion of privacy on a grand scale is not overly farfetched as already parts of Victoria are under a form of martial law in the form of a curfew and restrictions on liberty and freedoms that has never been seen in the history of this country.

To say this is in the public interest is patently false given the current events. This is more like a government seeing how far it can go in not just eradicating the right to privacy, but to exercising a totalitarian style of government the likes of which are only seen in repressive communist and fascist regimes.

Other examples exist in the form of the application the Federal government promoted to track the movements of individuals via their smartphones. That it mostly has failed is entirely due to the population rejecting it in part, as this approach could not be forced and as it transpired, not all smartphones are equal and not all people carry a smartphone around with them or even own one. Hence, the mentality of the idea was fundamentally flawed in that the political perception of smartphone ownership was driven by a flawed assumption. An example of this is that my smartphone spends more time in a drawer than my hand and is more often left behind than taken with me when I go out into the world as it holds little importance to me.

It doesn’t matter if the intention is honourable, what matters is the invasion into people’s privacy by means of tracking their movements, either voluntarily or involuntarily.

However, opinion is divided on these matters and one person’s privacy is subjective to another’s when put in the public arena.

So, is privacy a reality or a fantasy?

The only sure way to ensure individual privacy is to live in a cave in a remote area completely isolated from society and technology. That may sound ridiculous however, privacy within society is actually limited, particularly in these modern times. To appreciate this you must personally inspect every aspect of your life and how you live it to determine the veracity of this conclusion.

The days when an invasion of privacy required a physical activity to invade another’s privacy is largely gone, today people give away their privacy seemingly at will. Technology allows for privacy to be violated at will by anyone clever enough to be able to use the technology to spy on their neighbours, and also complete strangers.

Individual privacy is impinged upon daily and it is largely ignored or even noticed.

The computer that you use, the platforms that you visit, the smartphone on your person, and the internet of things in your homes are the vehicles by which people give away their privacy without even realising that they are allowing it. Every purchase you make, unless it is a cash purchase, can be tracked. The cameras plastered everywhere are invading your privacy as they record your mundane daily activities. Society is so immune to this surveillance that we barely even notice it.

To draw an example, consider that unless you have stringent internet security your web browser or platform will track your online activity and then deliver targeted adverts to you. Everything you do online is trackable and yet while you may complain about it, you allow it.

The frightening actuality is privacy is more an illusion than reality in this modern world.

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