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Big Brother’s a Peeping Tom

Revelations about surveillance programmes are provoking us to question why the governments are sniffing around our arses


Image from Anonymous ART of Revolution


Every breath you take
Every move you make
Every bond you break
Every step you take
I'll be watching you 

There was once a buzz that the Police’s Every Breath You Take should be the internet’s official song. If there are people you want to snoop, then stalk their Facebook and Twitter profiles. You have the fatherly Google as well, to check each digital footprint of a person. Byte them!

As things stand today, the condition has become worse—a chunk of the problems is because of the government’s intervention across the globe. It started a couple of weeks ago when Edward Snowden taking a piss on the US’ war on privacy. It is amazing how they have a war on everything, like the War on Terror, War on Oil, War on Commies and what not.

When Private Is No Different from Public

Snowden had exposed the malicious intents of the PRISM surveillance project. It is so intentionally vicious, as evident from the accusation of stealing government property.

The United States confirmed that it has filed a sealed criminal complaint against Edward Snowden, the former contract worker for the National Security Agency (NSA) who has admitted giving away classified information about previously undisclosed programmes to monitor telephone and internet traffic for possible terrorist threats.
The Independent, 22 June 2013

What will you lose if the government has its way? There are two main things:

     1. Censorship, implying a gag on the right to free expression
     2. Suppression of civil rights

Then, we have several issues of misusing/abusing, identity theft, detention, political vendettas and blackmail and so on. On a larger scale, it can affect the foreign policy of a country. We know there is no annoying national boundary in the World Wide Web. But that is not going to help. The problem does not end with the internet. The government is watching even the mischievous texts you send to your partner.

Going back in time, a long time ago when we were young in our evolutionary history, we had surrendered some of our natural rights for the common good. That gave rise to the growth of laws and other countless legal nuances; and many of them are just plain craps.

(1) A screenshot from Google's transparency report

Give More, Take Less

In the same breath, we are ready to submit to legal acts and governments, because they are giving us a reason, more important than our haphazard natural rights. It is most conspicuous when the government talks about a relevant issue, such as the threats of terrorism. It is like, OK, let them snoop but they should deliver results. The NSA claims, for instance, that it had foiled more than 50 terrorist attacks in the last decade or so.
Watching what?!
Image from the Attic Light

But with just one more step, it only re-creates an Orwellian Big Brother, albeit in a more realistic and dangerous pattern. Under the scanner, the civil society stands to lose; the individuals stand to lose; you and I stand to lose. How do you feel using the internet when someone, with a malicious intent, is peeping from our back?

The government should not have this deceptive power. The PRISM programme is an indirect threat, as Edward Snowden blew off, targeting mainly the National Security Agency in the US, even if the programme can bear on a larger global scale.

It is an open secret, over the years, how the US government is snooping around its own citizens, putting an oversized question mark on privacy and ethics.

How is the condition back here?

The Big Fat Indian Secret

In the US, it is legal to rape the privacy because the government cares so much for the people. The condition is no different in India.

Google, in its Transparency Report, mentions India is on the second spot in the list of countries that requests the highest number of information as well as for the details in censorship of the netizens’s virtual activities. This is just the beginning.

The caveat lies in the extraconstitutional powers of the few regulatory and surveillance bodies, with the government acting as its backbone.

In India, the Central Monitoring System, which is still in its pilot-project stage, aims to gag the online rights of internet users, provided the needs arise, though no one is sure what really is needed and the typical Indian ‘needful’. Under this system, the government has given the responsibilities to the National Cyber Coordination Centre. On the other hand, this is obvious how the government is trying to make up for all its impotency in the real world.

Significantly, without even a law on privacy in place in the country, the CMS and its branches offer more fear than freedom. Critics argue that online privacy is a myth. Still, it should not compromise on the fact that we are living in the Information Age. We have the information galore, so we say, but we are short of knowledge.

The solution lies in staying away from the online world. But, is it possible? It is just impractical because we have already plunged ourselves deep into the virtual compartment, and have been existing much like those fishes in a vast ocean.

Let us consider a scenario. Suppose there is a blanket ban on using internet. The criminals and terrorists will find, anyhow, a way to pass around the document and information. That is how we abuse power and knowledge. The moral of the story is that the government is going to indulge with the taxpayers’ money, peeping and sniffing.
(2) A screenshot from Google's transparency report - as of 23 June 2013

A personal experience: it is absurd talking about the right to privacy. I belong to a region where the power lies in the barrels of the guns; and legal, illegal, semi-legal and semi-illegal gunmen ruling the roost. The right to life is much more important that the seemingly corny right to enjoy privacy in a connected world.

Howsoever the right to live is important, it does not matter at all, because the government has always been fighting with prospective and equally nauseating counterparts. It does not matter how you live and exist. They have the guns and they have the politics as well. But that is totally another story.

We are concerned here about bricks of the digital revolution, much aggravated by the secret surveillance operations. The bouquets are still abundant; and we can enjoy the fresh scents, knowing well that the government will always be a pain. We can play all the love songs, starting from Every Breath You Take, when it is peeping. At least, we can say music is more important than a country.

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