THE BLOG

It's the Young Who Will Suffer in Our Surveillance Society

05/04/2016 10:59

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In January of this year, employers were urged by the likes of Simon Walker, the Director General of the Institute of Directors, not to read their employees' private messages. To this proclamation, he added a caveat, 'except in the most exceptional circumstances'.

In our age of constant connection, where both private and work-related emails and messages are pinged to and from individuals in an instant and read at the swipe of a button, the workplace is inevitably going to be the site of constant communication that is unrelated to the official job description of employees.

Given that young people are the most 'well-connected' in our society, It is surely they who will be most at risk of having their privacy infringed by not only their employers, but the state.

Indeed, with the Government's so-called 'Snoopers Charter' close to becoming legislation, there seems little hope of any form of privacy beyond the frontiers of an imagined and unrealistic disconnected living room.

The upcoming legislation will force mobile phone companies and internet service providers to retain and store email correspondence, voice calls, internet gaming history and mobile phone messages for 12 months.

This information can then be accessed by the authorities when necessary for law enforcement purposes, with the Home Secretary Teresa May arguing that thousands of lives have so far been saved as a result of agencies having access to similar information under current legislation.

Yet this updated and expanded set of powers, if made law, is a quite terrifying imposition on our privacy and goes some way to dispelling our delusions of having achieved 'progress' in terms of ethics and morality.

After all, personal privacy was only one facet of a multitude of freedoms that we assumed were protected from imposition by the state, but this legislation shows, like with modern torture techniques employed by the US government on terror suspects, that this so-called 'progress' is as easily lost as it is gained, and all in the name of 'necessity'.

Despite the near-ubiquity of modern communication devices, it is older generations who are inevitably going to be more guarded about what information they choose to infuse their phones, tablets, and other IT devices with.

As a result, they might be less affected than the young by 'snooping' by both employers and the state. Though even this mild relief will diminish as the years advance, because those in our modern age who are relative 'luddites' will only continue to diminish in number.

By contrast, young people such as myself have effectively transferred their lives over to our phones, there is almost no corner of our personal world that is not accessible to those who seek to know more about us.

Orwell's nightmare of telescreens in our homes doesn't seem so far-off now does it? Think of 'Smart TVs' - which many people own - being surreptitiously turned on at the other end by those with an interest in listening, and it really isn't that preposterous.

We therefore need to start thinking differently about the way in which we use our modern devices, or alternatively we need to redefine the concept of privacy, because when it suits our employer and government overlords, it is an entirely disregarded principle.

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