In Celebration of the 60th Anniversary of “1984”…

We are watching you!

In celebration of the 25th anniversary of the year 1984 and the 60th anniversary of George Orwell’s epic dystopian novel “1984,” Vernon Coaker the U.K.’s Home Office security minister said the EU Data Retention Directive, under which ISP’s (Internet Service Providers) store communications data does not go far enough. Currently the rules require ISP’s to store data for 12 months. “Social-networking sites such as MySpace or Bebo are not covered by the directive. That is one reason why the government’s looking at what we should do about the Intercept Modernization Program, because there are certain aspects of communications which are not covered by the directive.” said Coaker, speaking at a meeting of the House of Commons Fourth Delegated Legislation Committee. For those that are wondering what is the Intercept Modernization Program, let me explain. The Interception Modernization Program  is a government proposal for legislation to use mass monitoring of traffic data as an anti-terrorism tool. Orwellian indeed…

Ok, so what’s the deal. According to Coaker this change is critical to track terrorist activity in the UK.

It makes one wonder if someone doing something that sinister would use a service like Facebook, MySpace or Bebo to do so? So let’s play what if?

What if…you have a family member currently living in the UK and they use Facebook to send you messages, chat with you and update you. Do you like the thought of someone reading that communication?

What if…you have a business associate that is traveling oversees and sends you a SMS from a text platform, let’s say the text contains confidential business information? How do you feel about that?

What if…someone you love is traveling overseas and chats with you over Facebook chat. Do you enjoy the thought of a government reviewing and saving the chat? Will that change how you behave?

In each case I would be a bit uncomfortable sharing any private, intimate or confidential information and would have some discomfort, but not allot sharing basic small talk.

At the end of the day, the real questions are these…Is this loss of privacy worth a safer world? And do you believe the world will be safer after the loss of privacy? Do you trust a government to keep your secrets a secret when you are not breaking any law?

For those of you that will argue, “why would you feel discomfort unless you have something to hide?” I say “get a life,” that is the same argument that propagated the persecution of people for centuries. I think that argument would fade the second someone starts going through your underwear drawer… :)

In Orwell’s 1984, we have a vivid picture of a government that has justified the infringement on freedom; one that  used speech codes to limit everyone’s ability to understand and used a powerful media to build unwarranted consensus. This fictional government used technology to nip opposition and the result of was humanity denied its freedom to think. No, I am not saying the sky is falling here and I do believe we need to take steps to keep society safe but when is enough, enough? I don’t have a clue what the answer is but whenever I start to feel uncomfortable and like our privacy may be going away I suspect we may be getting close.

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