Privacy Hawks

by MaxPower

‘Orwellian’ – cool sounding word, but dreadfully overused. You know a word is overused when you get some flunky writing into your local paper using it as the basis for their argument. This happened to me the other day; so let me re-cap the situation.

There is a pilot project in my community to put ‘security’ cameras up on street corners where there are known problems with crime. Fairly simple plan, a similar system is in place in the U.K. with hundreds of thousands of CCTV cameras in the greater London area alone. There is nary a place in London that you can walk without being on camera. Train stations, bridges, alleys, main tourist arteries, all watched by cameras. These were initially put in place to combat IRA terrorism in London, however, they were found to be an effective deterrent against street crime and also lead to higher conviction rates since having a picture of you on camera bustin’ into a store is fairly hard to refute.

Anyway, some people are outraged that the possibility that their ‘right to privacy’ is being invaded. This is stupid the way the ‘right to bear arms’ is stupid. We’re talking major league stupid. And anything that’s major league stupid will have people writing letters to their local newspaper.

So this guy writes into to say that these four pilot project security cameras are the first step to an ‘Orwellian’ society. For the uninitiated, Orwellian refers to George Orwell and his novel 1984, which depicts the ultimate policy state, where the government knows your every move and even has the ‘Thought Police’ catching you if you even think about committing a crime. Unfortunately, this is what 1984 is known for. The book is excellent and makes compelling reading looking at international political relation theories (Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations can be seen in it’s pages) and what I thought was the most interesting point, the idea that constant war makes for the most secure society, in that civil liberties may be suspended for the sake of the nation. Again, this is spookily similar to the current global situation. Regrettably, the police state image of the word ‘Orwellian’ dominates.

So this guy writes in complaining that the police are intruding on his right to walk down the street in anonymity and are violating his privacy. Wait a second; once you step outside your house you relinquish all claims to privacy. Many countries in the world make you carry identification papers when you walk down the street in case someone wants to check them. Living in a developed Western nation we may not have grown up with that level of police intrusion but I don’t think you can claim a camera on a street corner is invading your privacy. A street corner affords no privacy, if I wanted to I could set-up a chair, grab my video camera and tape every person walking down the street. As long as I didn’t have any commercial gain from that tape I can do as I please. It’s a free country man.

In 1984, Orwell’s main show of an invasion of privacy was cameras in your house. Watching you as you sleep and then trying to get inside your mind to convict you of a crime you may have only thought of committing. This is a far cry from recording for deterrence and criminal conviction purposes activity on a street corner.

If your not committing a crime why should you care? Most of us are on tape many times a day, in banks, in supermarkets, in shopping malls, on roads monitored by photo-radar or traffic jam detection cameras. Invasion of privacy? I think not. The only people who have anything to fear from any of these methods of recording are the people who want to rob the banks and shopping malls or commit other crimes.

Worried about ‘The Man’ making a master record of all of your comings and goings around the city? Someone who can track you on camera and then track all of the Internet sites you visit, all of your credit card transactions, find out what foods you eat by tracking your ‘rewards’ card at your local supermarket. Worried about that? Then do what all wackos do, grab some guns and move into a compound in Montana where you can have some ‘privacy’. But first ask yourself a question: Who cares? Who cares where you buy your food, where you bank, what you are doing if you are walking down a street? If you think someone cares you are either breaking a law or paranoid that the government can read your brain waves from space and then you best be breaking out the aluminium foil for your anti-brain-scanning-wave cap.

If you want to be part of society then quit your bitching and recognize that passive surveillance does nothing to you if you have nothing to hide. Privacy ends at your doorway, and only if you disconnect your phone and computer, buy some blackout blinds, but not using a credit card, or cash withdrawn from an ATM. Cause you never know who is watching.

  • Privacy Hawks
  • by MaxPower
  • Published on July 1st, 2003

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