Following Snowden’s appearance on Dotcom’s flopped ‘moment of truth’ there can be no New Zealander who is not aware that their every electronic communication is open to Big Daddy’s eavesdropping. However, I have noticed that by no means all New Zealanders seem to consider that Snowden, by his revelations, has done them a particular favour. Their position, that I have heard expressed repeatedly, is that as they are not villains, they have nothing to hide from public view and nothing to fear should someone listen in on their private communications.
For those who cannot spare the time to watch the full twenty minutes, here is a brief summary of Glenn’s arguments:
- · People, who say they commit no ill and that therefore privacy is not important to them, deceive themselves. They put passwords on their computers and social media accounts, lock the toilet door etc. Everyone has things they know they don’t want outsiders to know.
- · When people tell Glenn that they have no secrets to hide, he always gives them his email address and says “What I want you to do when you get home is email me the passwords to all of your email accounts, not just the nice, respectable work one in your name, but all of them, because I want to be able to just troll through what it is you’re doing online, read what I want to read and publish whatever I find interesting. After all, if you’re not a bad person, if you’re doing nothing wrong, you should have nothing to hide.” No one has ever taken up his offer.
- · The truth is that humans are both social animals and private individuals and all need a space which is entirely their own. Everyone, not just criminals, have things they do not wish released into the public domain: conversations and relationships with friends, lawyers, doctors, lovers, etc.
- · Privacy is a natural craving. Everyone, who feels their actions can be observed by others, alters their behaviour accordingly. Nervous of society’s opinions, they behave not as they might wish to behave, but become more conformist and compliant.
- · Starting with Bentham and Foucault, modern social science has found that the way to control large and possibly dissident populations is to make them aware that though they may not be under continuous observations, any action at any time can be observed by the hidden watchers. “Mass surveillance creates a prison of the mind… which is much more effective than brute force could ever be.”