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Monday, October 6, 2014

Privacy - Real or an Illusion



How much privacy do we really have? Considering what can be found on the internet, I’d say not a whole lot. Over the past three years, Hubs and I have enjoyed watching “Person of Interest” about this guy who invented a machine that can determine who is about to become a victim or perpetrator. Fiction, right? The program shows the main characters watching closed circuit television cameras all over the city. The characters, using those CCTV cameras, track down the person then help the intended victim or bring the perp to justice. Satisfying ending usually in forty-three minutes.

Remember how I mentioned my Amazon Prime accident? A rather fortuitous accident, I have to say, since we (mainly, I) have been watching movies and TV shows I never heard of. Like “The Last Enemy” from PBS Contemporary. I watched it because I like Benedict Cumberbatch (from “Sherlock” and Star Trek: Into Darkness). The five-part series deals with “total information access” where everyone is watched everywhere, either through CCTV cameras (even in their homes), trackers sewn into clothing, or a rice-size pellet injected into a person’s arm. Now that’s scary.

No, no, no, the developers claimed. It will be a wondrous aid. If you’re in an accident, EMTs only need to scan your arm for your medical info. No need to carry credit cards. Just wave your arm and the purchase is yours. No need to carry keys. Another wave and you can open doors and start your car. Toddlers or the elderly with dementia who wander off can always be found.

Real or fiction? Convenient or scary? Maybe conveniences can turn scary. A car can be a convenience or a weapon that kills. Online banking is convenient until a hacker steals our info.

My father was nearly paranoid about not wanting people, especially the government, to know his business. Was he in a dangerous profession? Hardly. He was a tool & die maker. The most dangerous thing he did was get cut on steel chips from a lathe. But he was so afraid of the government knowing anything about him, he wouldn’t let my sister fill out a financial aid request for college. In later years, I wondered if he learned that paranoia from his father whose family came from Eastern Europe in the 1880s, where the authorities could do almost anything to anybody. Yet despite his fear of the government, Dad enlisted in the Army Air Force (where he had to reveal a whole lot of personal info) and fought in WWII to protect our country. Go figure.

Despite growing up with his attitude, I’ve never been that afraid of the “government.” The outrage over them listening in on cell phone conversations didn’t really faze me. So what if they want to listen in while my grandkiddies sing “Happy Birthday” to me? Or my sister telling me the latest family gossip? Come on. I’m not a threat to the security of our country. And if listening in on phone conversations will help them stop terrorist threats, that's great.

But what if what is supposed to be for our good gets perverted? For us fiction writers, this is fodder for exciting novels. Didn’t we all read 1984 in school? Big Brother is watching. And what about movies like Enemy of the State and Minority Report? Well, “The Last Enemy” made me rethink some of my previously-held concepts. I’ve never thought of myself as a conspiracy nut, but maybe my dad had the right idea about privacy, after all.

What do you think? Is true privacy an illusion?


8 comments:

  1. Pssst! [peeks out from the closet] Don't tell them I was here, but just wanted to tell you that this was a fun post!

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    1. Mum's the word, Patrish. My lips are sealed.

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  2. I prefer my privacy, especially from tax-forming agencies. Did you know they just changed school privacy rights so 3rd parties can access kids records? (Maybe not the entirety, but part of them.) That makes me very uncomfortable. Don't know about you.

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    1. I didn't know that, Crystal. Makes me very uncomfortable for my grandkiddies.

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  3. Hmm, you raise some interesting questions. Scary to think the government could have that much access to us and information about us. I'm not sure what I believe. I sometimes feel like I live in a bubble (writing bubble I guess you could say), and like an ostrich with its head in the sand, I miss out on the events around me. Sometimes that might be a good thing, because I do get scared of the direction we're headed.

    ~Kristin
    http://swordsandstilettos.blogspot.com

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    1. Kristin, I'm usually in that same bubble...until I saw that TV series. Very scary.

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  4. Yep, I'm thinking true privacy is pretty much an illusion these days. Yes, we need watchdogs on the watchdogs and we need restrictions on where the data goes and who handles it, but overall, it's something we need to get used to and be aware of when we hand over personal details.

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    1. You're right, Lynda, about being careful with personal details. Too often we're trading privacy.for convenience.

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