Posts Tagged ‘privacy’

Some people appear to truly believe that if you’ve done nothing wrong, you have nothing to hide. It doesn’t bother them if their communications are being monitored, or if the government can access the details of every phone call, email, or electronically communicated conversation any of us have ever had. After all, anyone doing something illegal in those communications should be caught – and so long as you’re not doing anything illegal, what’s there to worry about?


Some people have things they’ve said taken out of context, and protest that their words have been twisted in order to unfairly paint them as some sort of scoundrel. They’ve been misrepresented. Something they said as a joke got repeated around as if they’d really meant it. Someone just quoted the first bit of what they were saying, where they were just setting up the devastatingly satirical point that came later, and made them look like an idiot.

The point being:

I suspect that there is a significant crossover between the two aforementioned groups of people.

And that many of those in this intersection don’t realise how much the context issue undermines their position on privacy.

If you’ve ever been in a casual conversation where someone’s unfairly made you out to be some kind of villain, by unfairly twisting something you said or did and refusing to give you the benefit of the doubt, imagine how much worse it could get when there’s a centralised national authority with a monopoly on physical coercion which can do exactly that.

Maybe you’re not even in that second group, though. Maybe you reckon you’re just over on the left of the Venn diagram.

Maybe you aren’t bothered what the NSA knows about you, because you’ve never said anything in private which could ever possibly be misrepresented to embarrass or incriminate you.

Maybe you’ve never said anything unrepresentative of your true views in a moment of passion or exasperation. Maybe you’ve never made an off-colour joke which might seem racist, sexist, or otherwise offensive when stripped of the nuance, subtlety, and irony you obviously intended. Maybe you’ve never said anything on record which can’t be perfectly understood in isolation or could ever be seen to reflect poorly on you.

Maybe you’ve lead a really dull life, is what I’m saying.

In which case, that’s absolutely fine. I don’t mean to judge. It’s not my place to tell you there’s anything inappropriate about living with a level of caution and reservedness that suits you. So long as it’s working for you, knock yourself out. Be totally blameless. Never give anyone a chance to turn anything against you, no matter how tyrannical their efforts to use your own words to indict you. Go for it. I hope it makes you happy.

But that’s not for me. And a world where that’s the only option isn’t one I want to live in.

I want everyone to be able to make tasteless private jokes, offensive comments behind each other’s backs, and clandestine rendez-vouseses to commit acts of which someone somewhere might disapprove, without worrying about the black glove of Dominion suddenly clapping them on the shoulder.

I want creativity and personal autonomy to roam as free as humanly possible, so that every idea, however contemptible or misguided, has a chance to be talked about.

I want Chris Rock to be able to try some new material out, misfire, make some bad calls that don’t land, cause some offense, figure out what he did wrong, hone the routine until it becomes something that connects with people, and not risk being lambasted into oblivion because of an uncharitable and context-free interpretation of the ideas he had to stumble through on the way to somewhere great.

I want us not to have to constantly restrict ourselves to a narrow set of opinions known to be acceptable and uncontroversial, until we forget how to think differently altogether.

I want to have “nothing to fear”, even if I have done something wrong, because fear shouldn’t be the thing that keeps us from doing wrong, dammit.

I want privacy to be a thing.

I want some cheesecake.

Crap, I knew I’d get derailed from my original point eventually. What was I saying?


Read Full Post »

– I support men’s rights. This is not what I mean by that.

– It’s not a Cracked list, but this summary of the 7 Worst International Aid Ideas is still pretty tragically funny in places. Where it isn’t just tragic.

– Turns out Facebook aren’t too thrilled about employers demanding your passwords either. You know it has to be pretty fucked up for Facebook to be unequivocally on the right side of a privacy issue.

– Man, some white people really love to get racially offended.

Read Full Post »

I’d really like to think that this is just one of those cases where the freedom-hugging liberati (like me) have leapt onto an urban legend and become prematurely outraged. You know, like those shitstorms over whatever sexy thing kids were supposed to be doing with coloured wristbands.

But it’s getting reported on the AP, and so I think the ACLU is right to object when companies are demanding that potential employees hand over their log-in details to social media sites such as Facebook as part of the recruitment process.

I need a job. I’m still waiting for an interview from any of these basic admin roles I’m firing off copies of my CV for. But I don’t need one badly enough that, if someone asks for my Facebook password to check out my background, I can’t afford to tell them to fuck right off.

If you’re going to consider hiring me, there are certain things you have a right to know about me. The information provided on my CV, and the way I carry myself and answer personal questions during the interview, should cover most of it. But things like my private Facebook updates, my direct Twitter messages, my personal emails? None of your fucking business.

There are things I do and say when I’m unguarded and among friends, which are different from my actions in public or in the presence of people I don’t know. Maybe there are things in there I wouldn’t want a potential employer to see, but it is absolutely not their place to generalise from my private, unguarded musings to conclusions about how I’m going to behave as an employee.

Go back ten years. What if employers then had demanded to read your diary? Browse your internet history? Get a log of all the text messages you’ve received and sent? Check what magazines you keep under the mattress? Examine the doodlings in the margins of all your school exercise books? (Mostly cocks, right? And balls. Mostly cocks and balls. Right?)

None of that would have flown, so what’s supposedly different now? If it’s not information I’ve made publicly available to everyone, if it’s not something I’ve freely discussed with you, and if it’s not a criminal conviction in a field relevant to my prospective job description, then it’s not something you have the right to learn about me.

I might personally be tempted – if I were in that situation, and before I told them just how very off they could fuck – to ask some prying questions of my own, to help me decide whether I really want to enter into a contract with this company. Maybe a close look at its financial records, an analysis of any tax loopholes employed, details of executives’ pay as compared to both company performance and median salaries… that kind of thing.

But of course, these are large corporate entities we’re talking about, and I’m an unemployed worker. It’s clear where the power lies in such relationships these days.

Postscript: Did you know that, before the internet, people often had quite wide nets of occasional acquaintances, and would socialise casually with numerous people, rather than remaining largely isolated or sticking to a small bunch of like-minded allies? I know, right? Crazy times.

Well, maybe not so crazy. If you’re a regular reader or commenter here, let’s be PALS (Personal Associates of Low-level Sincerity). Drop me a line on Facebook letting me know who you are, and let’s broaden those social horizons a little.


(Note: This is an experiment in alpha testing phase. I may get bored of you at any moment, without warning, and go back to just using social media to talk to my actual friends. Nothing personal.)

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: