Privacy: Precious and/or destructive choices
Geoffrey Wells letter #11:
I start with a request: Listen to this Ethiopian jazz while reading the rest of this blog. Don’t ask me to explain why the music adds poignancy to the subject matter of privacy, except I will say that this subject seems to strike deep notes in the soul. (…and thanks to @worldisafrica that I follow on Twitter)
Last week, as we saw a mountainside of the French Alps strewn with airline and body parts, I thought of the many and conflicted opinions we have about privacy; its precious and destructive power being played out publicly, viscerally–the volcanic shame oozing through the fissure of our collective guilt. It seems apparent now that Andreas Lubitz, who is alleged to have murdered 150 people, including himself, was a sick man. Did sheltering under the veil of privacy allow him to keep flying? Or was it Lufthansa’s policy and German law that prevented an oversight of the 27-year-old co-pilot’s health and mental state? This raises troubling questions about where the responsibility lies. Should there be separate rules that are applied to those who are responsible for the safety of the public? And if the answer is yes, then could we not argue that we are all responsible for the safety of each other, in some way? Isn’t that the social contract? Who, I would ask, cared so little for him that they allowed him to fly?When I drive on a four-lane freeway, how many people might I murder by driving badly, or because I had too much to drink, or was depressed? Would that mean that I should not be allowed to drive? Who is to decide, and how, and how often?
In Alex Preston’s searching essay, The Death of Privacy (The Guardian, August 3, 2014), he breaks down the debate; that what we hold as private is thought of as shameful and secret, or, conversely, that sharing what is private is seen as socially responsible and actually convenient. I don’t know to what extent people shared their instant reactions to the news of the Germanwings disaster, but I don’t think I was the only one thinking, “terrorist” and dark thoughts about the chaos in the Middle East. Of course that rush to judgement should be private, and if that sentiment went viral, then the condemnation would be sealed into the history pages of the Internet. That bell could not be un-wrung–unless, as Preston points out, public censorship becomes common. He cites the European Court case of Google vs. Costeja Gonzalz, who won “the right to be forgotten”. False judgement (read slander) might be erased in the future. So, will the Internet then be the revisionist’s history? I hope not: It might be kind, but it also might be a lie. Because that’s not what happened.
In Europe, Google search pages warn, “Some results may have been removed under data protection law in Europe.” –The Guardian, August 3, 2014.
The subject of privacy fascinates me. At a psychological level, it brings into question how conscious we are of ourselves. Privacy, is so fascinating to me, that I wrote my latest novel with the aim of exposing the privacy conflicts that a character might face. In THE FACES IN THE RAIN, Allison is, like many of us, somewhat indifferent on the issues of privacy, though she is fanatical in protecting her career as a musician and composer–especially after losing her identity. Determined that it will not happen again, she takes a passive-aggressive approach to protect both her privacy and her identity. So she corrupts them. So effective is she at this, that she is able to hide-in-plain-sight; a tactic commonly used by cyber criminals. Her approach is simple. Then the CIA informs her that she is being used by a cybercrime syndicate. With enough coding skill to be dangerous, and plenty of smarts, she has mastered the art of obfuscation. Now she must help them lay the trap, while undercover as someone else. The irony is that in the subsequent confusion she finds her authenticity. But reconciling it with her identity is another matter.
Allison, like the rest of us, while we gaze at our collective belly button, must answer the nagging voice, asking, “Who am I?” And so the personal and public consciousness of ourselves gets mapped to our identity in time and space. And if we’re careful, it will be what it is.
Well? Did you listen to the track while you read? Regardless of what you thought of the music, I hope you agree that it’s impact changes the emotional weight of what I wrote. Do you agree? Can music with creative writing be considered reading?
Author of two novels, I write fiction and blog about elephants, bio diversity, authenticity, and internet anarchy; i.e. our response-ability for a sustainable world.