Privacy – the most oft ignored and dismissed human right.

Recently an article revealed that Apple had patented a transmission blocking technology that would allow law enforcement groups to block transmissions from Iphones from certain areas. Conceivably this could be used to allow law enforcement groups to prevent the kinds of rapid organisation of unlawful mobs such as those seen in the London riots in 2011. However the obvious slippery slope here is that such an application could be easily misused by those same law enforcement groups. Had such technology existed in the past for example, its likely that Los Angelinos would not have seen the beating of Rodney King, or the world the events that took place in Tiananmen Square in Beijing in 1989, let alone the organised protests in Tahir Square in Cairo.

This comes on top of a general intrusions on personal privacy seen in online companies such as Facebook and Google and Twitter as well as government agencies in the US and Australia with far reaching surveillance and data retention laws (in Australia, these laws are in the process of being expanded). The general sentinment, or excuse, depending on which way you lean, is that in the post 9/11 world, such steps are necessary.
Yet, common responses encountered when bringing up these issues in conversation range along the lines of “If you have nothing to hide, whats the problem?” to “you’re assuming that this is a new thing and they haven’t been doing it anyway.” – Privacy it seems is an issue a lot of people don’t seem to care all that much about, until of course it intrudes into an area you would rather have kept private.
If you are doing nothing wrong, what do you have to worry about? The best rebuttal of this line of thinking i’ve encountered goes something like this: Next time you and your significant other, or indeed, you and whomever are getting down and dirty in the bedroom, would you mind putting some cameras up and showing the rest of us? With a tip of the hat to the exhibitionists out there its fair to assume that most people would say “no” to this. Yet, if you have nothing to hide, whats the problem? The issue here is that some things are private because we wish them to be so, we don’t need to justify why what we do in our bedrooms is private, if we choose it to be so, that’s enough. This is a personal choice, you are free to broadcast every facet of your life to the world if you want to – and some people seem to do so! But the choice is yours, no one has the right to impose that decision on you. So why not for emails? Personal correspondence, text messages, health records etc? These are also personal goings on that for whatever reason – assuming one isn’t doing something illegal – should be allowed to be kept private unless you choose to make them otherwise.
This also addresses the “they are doing it anyway” line of thinking – granted “they” might be, but should they be? I would suggest that they shouldn’t. The fact that something might be happening, doesn’t automatically make it right.
Access to your personal information and communications, renders you far more open to manipulation, exploitation and control. One of the reasons why the new technology patented by Apple is so potentially insidious is that it could allow dubious or corrupt regimes to exercise this very control over legitimate dissent, protest or popular movements. Who owns the Iphone you bought anyway? If the government and Apple can collude to control how you use it, then it seems that you don’t. Stay tuned for other companies to follow suit.

Below are some of the relevant texts of the UN Declaration and EU convention on Human rights. Note the mention of the “law” in both cases. The EU convention explains this in greater detail – yet bear in mind, the surveillance and data retention powers being sought by the Attorney General’s office in Australia are a vast slippery slope in terms of individual privacy, yet are being sought under the cloak of law, as were those in the USA. Apple’s highly dubious technology patent is again, entirely legal. The fact that people seem to not mind that their privacy is infringed upon means that such laws and technology use probably wont face the public scrutiny and outcry they deserve.

Article 12. UN declaration of Human rights.
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

Article 8 – Right to respect for private and family life (European Convention on Human Rights).
1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.
2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

UK application of the law explained in greater detail:

http://www.yourrights.org.uk/yourrights/privacy/article-8-the-right-to-respect-for-private-and-family-life-home-and-corresp.html

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~ by benephobia on September 18, 2012.

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