So far, 2014 has been a very big year for Neo and his gang — the proverbial Matrix freedom fighters.
Google, the company—whose now quaint and retro-sounding catchphrase was ‘don’t be evil’—recently lost its battle with Spanish detractors via the European Court of Justice (CJEU), and ‘the right to be forgotten‘ finally became more than just a catchy concept.
The cyber-snooping against Miss Teen USA prompted a realisation amongst mainstreamers that people (like myself) who have been covering up their webcams for years are not tinfoil hat wearing crazies who pin up old newspaper clippings in our basements, but actually intuitives who sensed the very real possibility that such tech could easily be abused by anyone — even some hard-up teen loser.
And, next month, Blackphone — apparently the world’s first encrypted ‘spy-proof’ consumer smartphone — will ship its first pre-orders. This is my dream phone, so if this blog post perchance ever reaches anyone at Silent Circle, I wouldn’t scoff at a review copy (hint hint).
In any case, the media posits that this zeitgeist (a word that Google has robbed the intellegentsia of) is merely a backlash regarding the Edward Snowden NSA spying revelations. I think not. Albeit massive, those revelations were part of something much bigger. In simple terms, this tech-policing wave is more akin to whiplash—the causally linked result of being driven by technology at literally breakneck speeds.
This is, folks, the turn of events I’ve been waiting for for many years: the moment of consciousness—when humans get to rediscover our humanity and seemingly lost values, rather than being led like eyes-cast-down smartphone zombies by an endless cycle of novelty-driven ‘advancement’ into who knows what, at the cost of being, well, human.
The documentary 2009 We Live in Public demonstrated how being under constant scrutiny and having no sense of intimacy with oneself achieves the opposite of a transparent, open, connected community. Why? Because humans are not machines—we’re not the web, so the ideology of links and connections only works when there is an element of intimacy involved.
What is intimacy? I don’t have the answer. I have my answer but I think that’s the point, everyone has to pause for a moment, break away from their screens and devices and ponder what intimacy means to them.
For me it’s having thoughts that I cherish and share with myself alone, not the whole www.orld. The purity of a thought or idea changes when we believe (if even falsely) that we’re being watched or listened to. Right now, even though there’s probably only one person reading this (I love you, Mum!), the process of writing feels tainted, less real than it might feel if I was scribbling something in an old-school offline notebook.
I, like all Londoners, live under the constant watchful eye of CCTV. There are moments, for instance waiting for a train in an underground station, when I try to find a spot on the Tube platform, which isn’t privy to this cold machine gaze. But I can’t.
Surely, there are positives of such constant surveillance: the protection of the innocent (and provision of evidence0 when a crime is taking place. the Metropolitan Police force has apparently instituted a partial programme involving waist-level video cameras to monitor arrests (surely to ensure that civil liberties and process prevail).
However, the flip side is just too dark and ugly to contemplate. So, instead of steeping myself in such gloomy Orwellian thoughts (is anyone in doubt of how ahead of his time this scribe was?!) I turn instead to more uplifting developments. I take momentarily solace in the fact that I have a right to be forgotten, that I can still run with the times and have a smartphone but ensure that my privacy is protected, and that I have a Band-Aid over my webcam.
Note: I co-wrote and sang on a metal-punk track about privacy incursions with Oz Fox of Stryper and Mark Pontz which is headbanger version of the above Listen to ‘See Through You.’