Amidst the entirely unworthy debates of whether one wealthy white guy is allowed to tell another wealthy white guy that he’s a ‘social climber’ or not, you might have missed that Senator Jacqui Lambie has introduced an ‘anti-burqa bill’ into the Senate. I think that there are fundamental legal problems with it (but they’re boring and technical) and it probably won’t get beyond second reading. But even if there aren’t technical problems, I still think — as a conservative — that there are problems with the Bill that we should debate. The key problem, from my perspective, is the extent to which people should be able to preserve their anonymity and defend their privacy. This Bill is an unrestrained attack on your ability to regulate the extent to which other people can monitor you and coerce your behaviour.
Here’s the article by TIME magazine breaking down the salient facts about PRISM — the US Government’s program of collecting data from web servers to hunt down spies and whatnot.
Whenever a story like this breaks out, people get all flustered and flummoxed about privacy. It is an outrage — they say — that the government would access our private data like this. How dare they?
It’s moments like this that show the extent to which our debates about privacy, rights, and liberties are locked firmly in the past. The belligerents in the battle are the citizens (whose privacies, rights, and liberties are infringed) and the State (who is big, evil, needs to be controlled, and likes to infringe the liberties of its citizens). It’s an idea stemming from the time when we had to win concessions from evil tyrants and tyrannical governments — a time when saying something controversial and unpopular was a revolutionary act. A time when people died, man. People died.
That time — for the vast majority of people who read this — is not today. We are awash with idiot opinions and people who feel that utterances in breach of taste and decency are somehow edgy and radical (cf. the discussion of rape jokes by comedians).
Each day, we hand over a vast amount of our private data to companies who are thinly regulated. If I hand over my data to a government agency, there’s a stack of legislation and protocols and guidelines for the management of my data. When that data is misused, I have a dozen avenues for redress. When I use my mobile phone to update my Facesbook status, five or six companies (if not more) take a slice of that information and have barely any restrictions on how they use that information. If it leaks, I have no idea how to sue. Hell, I’d have no idea whom to sue.
People freaking out about PRISM are effectively saying: ‘It’s okay for Google, Facesbook, Microsoft, Apple, Angry Birds, the guys behind Farmville, WordPress, my Internet service provider, my phone carrier, the phone manufacturer, and all the advertising companies who mine their data to have information about me, but I will freak right the freak out if the government [the only person in this whole mess whose use of data is regulated] dares to get a copy.’
Look how many people cheered on the Anonymous groups that released customer data from PlayStation or whatnot. That’s all good, provided that Anonymous isn’t the government.
Even sodding Derryn Hinch thinks that he can decide what private information should be public domain. So long as he isn’t the government, people seemed fine with it.
It is a brain dead argument that we’re having in which people’s responses are motivated by adolescent problems with authority rather than any kind of coherent argument. People aren’t worried about privacy; they’re worried about authority. If they were as worried about privacy as they should be, there would be legislation to restrict the use of private information by companies like Facebook, Twitter, Google, &c. The government is the least of your problems.
When James Massola compiled publicly available information to ‘out’ Grog’s Gamut, the Left lost its shit. ‘How dare the Australian,’ it wailed, ‘try to silence views in this way?! It’s bullying!’
Recently, Jennifer Wilson of No Place for Sheep discovered a new passion for informing anybody who’d listen that Melinda Tankard Reist was a certain type of Christian who regularly worshipped at a certain church in a certain suburb of Canberra. Melinda Tankard Reist is unpopular for a variety of reasons: not least, she has the audacity to argue that the porn industry, taken as a whole, exploits women. The cheek!
Very few people try to engage MTR in her views because it’s far easier to belittle her. I’ve written about this before and complained that it’s yet another indication of a toxic public discussion. When I wrote about the state of the discourse, Jennifer Wilson appeared in the comments. Not to discuss the post, mind. She had absolutely no interest in the problems with the public discussion of pornography. What she really wanted to say was that MTR was a Christian.
Wilson’s argument is that it doesn’t matter what MTR’s arguments are. What matters is who MTR is. We should all know that MTR’s arguments are actually a conspiracy by shadowy religious types to destroy women’s rights while arguing that pornography exploits women… or something. It’s not entirely clear exactly why Jennifer Wilson doesn’t understand why this ad hominem argument doesn’t make a lick of sense.
Perhaps it has something to do with where Jennifer Wilson’s kids go to school…
Oh, wait. I totally wouldn’t start revealing information I’d mined from Facebook, Twitter, &c., &c, (if I could be bothered stalking her like some people stalk MTR) because that would be a Dick Move. I understand that it would be a Dick Move and that it would likely upset Dr Wilson and, being the wonderful human being that I am, I don’t do it.
Initially, this post was going to be about privacy torts and why Australia should have them. Natural persons, regardless of how famous they are or how much of a moral crusader they are, should be able to control the amount of information revealed about them. But it’s deeper than that. This is less about legality and significantly more about being decent people.
I first came across MTR when somebody directed my attention to absolutely vile threats made against her. If I got the number of rape threats as MTR, I would be cagey about my whereabouts as well. I might even make slightly stretched defamation claims in order to get rid of that info. What’s weird is that so many women — from both sides of the political spectrum — are subject to utterly disgusting threats by guys who don’t like to be challenged. Subjecting women to these threats is a way of silencing them.
Fortunately for all the pro-porn advocates who think what MTR really needs in life is a good shag (perhaps even with a firehose…), Jennifer Wilson doesn’t believe in respecting privacy. Instead, Jennifer Wilson and Catherine Deveny (sigh) think that it’s more important that crafty theists like MTR are outed come hell or high water. If something does happen to MTR, well… it was hardly their fault, was it? Freedom of speech, something, something, therefore they are blameless. Plus, Deveny really hates theists so it’s all cool, guys.
But Wilson and Deveny are just jumping on the silencing opponents bandwagon. Women who disagree need to be outed and denied the ability to control information revealed about them.
Jill Singer makes the strange argument that MTR’s attempt to protect her privacy is actually her attempt to silence opponents. Perhaps she’s right. There’s so much silencing going on, it’s amazing there’s so much noise.
At the end of the day, we should just look at ourselves and ask: ‘Why should I have more say in the control of another person’s private information than they do? Who am I to say how much information about them is made easily available to others? Does finding snippets of information in Google caches really mean the information is public domain?’
‘Cause, frankly, I think it’s just another case of people being unreasonably shitty towards each other.
I, like so many others, was disappointed that The Chaser will no longer be able to provide their commentary of the royal wedding on ABC2. The royal family apparently intervened. It’s a shame.
The blogosphere’s narrative about this turn of events is utterly ridiculous. AnonymousLefty, for example, wrote:
The ABC is supposed to be an independent public broadcaster. So is the BBC. And yet the royall (sic) family – our royal family, still – can apparently exert so much pressure over the two public broadcasters that they will cancel a program that might satirise a public event [Source]
This is probably the more eloquent of the rage yet it still falls into the tired entitlement complex of those with an internet connexion: how dare anybody tell me that I’m not allowed to get what I want?!interrobang?! I have a blog!
Sure, it sucks that The Chaser won’t be able to screen their commentary but, at the same time, it should be remembered that this is somebody’s wedding. A family ought to have the right to determine the extent to which their privacy is invaded, even if it’s a ‘public’ family like the Windsors.
The requests aren’t even that unreasonable. Australian Parliament House provides live broadcasts of parliamentary events, and even they stipulate that the material broadcasted is not to be used for ‘satire and ridicule’. These are our politicians who are allowed to put limits on broadcasts, and yet we get uppity and outraged when limits are put on broadcasts of a wedding. Seriously?
The absurd posturing that a public broadcaster (or the media in general) should be permitted (if not obliged) to invade a family’s life for our shits and giggles is adolescent at best. It’s not ‘craven caving’ to respect the wishes of people generous enough to allow the event to be broadcast at all. Grow up.