I propose the formation of a cabinet-level Department of Privacy. There are all manner of intrusive and even perilous electronics impinging on our lives, and it’s getting worse. Elon Musk’s Tesla 3 cars are being investigated for the cameras that are already installed in the rearview mirrors, and which will soon be turned on–focused on the driver and passengers!
Facebook and the others assure us that they are only gathering unidentifiable market research (and targeting of ads). The auto insurance companies are giving incentives for us to install devices that track our driving habits. And Tesla says it’s camera in the cabin exist partly to discourage vandalism. What else can someone see if someone in power wants to? And the hackers, who are getting cleverer every day.
This is not new. In 1984 (written in 1948) George Orwell’s totalitarian state has such slogans as War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength, and Big Brother is Watching You. The televisions in that country broadcast in both directions. The Conversation (1974), with Gene Hackman (and a very young and handsome Harrison Ford), was among the first to put the fear in us of modern electronic surveillance. In a kind of update, Enemy of the State (1998), with Gene Hackman (this time with Will Smith), depicts a scary representation of what ‘the State’ can do to spy on you and disempower you, and lock you out.
There’s another, even scarier example of that disempowerment in the Benedict Cumberbatch miniseries The Last Enemy (2008). It’s scarier because the controlling entity is not a rogue department of government, but the UK government itself. The British series Black Mirror (Netflix), well-written and well-acted, visits these issues regularly.
We have been warned to not provide so much personal information to entities like Facebook. Many of us have stopped doing so or are minimizing what we share.
All this writing and moviemaking is designed to warn us about the threats of loss of privacy, and loss of personal information and communications, and the threat of major loss of freedom. We UUs treasure our freedoms – most of us anyway – and we must be alert to these threats, and not give up. Eternal vigilance has always been the price of liberty.
Rev. Leland Bond-Upson