Friday, 3 September 2010

day 24: privacy

i think i'm running out of words. not ideas mind you, but the words seem to be drying up, not flowing as easily as they were last week. it may be that i need a bit of time out to replenish the stock of words in my head, because i've used up most of the ones that were there. but there are only 6 more days to go, and i hate to give up now!

i've added a paragraph to yesterday's post, which was written in haste so i didn't manage to think it all through as well as i would have liked. let's see if i can manage better today.

the topic for today is privacy, something which i tend to guard reasonably jealously. i've chosen not to blog anonymously, which means that i tend to be a lot more careful about what i say. i try to be particularly careful about revealing aspects of my past, try not to reveal anything personal about my children or other family members. this is because i think everyone has a right to privacy and has the right to choose what information about them should be in the public domain.

the internet world sees an increasing loss of privacy. things we say or put are there forever, and can be easily connected back to us - this piece in werewolf magazine covers that somewhat. often we don't realise how, when and where our words or other information about us will be used.

email is particularly bad in terms of privacy, because you are entirely dependent on the person you've sent it to keeping it to themselves. i've had any number of occasions where my emails were forwarded to others without my consent, or the reply (which included my original email) included others in the cc line whom the message was never intended for. each instance this has happened to me felt like a kick in the guts. in one series of instances, it was because i knew a particular person was doing this to deliberately to undermine me. in other cases, it still feels extremely unfair that my permission wasn't asked. in one instance, someone decided to send an email of mine to the herald, and the first i heard about it was when i got a call from a reporter. again, not a nice experience. this is why i'm extremely careful not to forward or otherwise disseminate emails without permission of the author.

i've also had my email account hacked into and personal emails misinterpreted and used against me in rather nasty ways. i've had a personal word document, which was password protected, hacked and also used against me. i can't even begin to explain how much of a violation this was and how much heartache resulted from it all. i feel sick just remembering it all. it was obviously my own naivete that i didn't realise such things could happen, and boy, don't i know better now. now i treat even the most personal email sent by me as if it was a public service broadcast. i find it sad that i have to be so careful, but i guess that's how the world works for me & i just have to adjust to it.

there are so many privacy issues with things like facebook and google. i'm too tired to look up the links and all the issues, but here's just one example from over at hoydens. i didn't even know such a function existed on facebook until i read the post, and then i rushed to my facebook account and turned off everything i could. i tend to avoid any personal information on my facebook account as well. you may call me paranoid, but i know how such information can be used to wound. it's just not worth the trouble.

when i think of privacy, it also calls to mind people who are on watchlists, sometimes unbeknownst to themselves. their phone calls are tapped, their movements monitored. it's worse for those who know this is happening to them, who know it's a tactic used to silence any political dissent or any activism. lack of privacy can ensure a lack of organised resistance to oppression.

you might think these things don't happen in our lovely little corner of the world. i would point you to the abominable behaviour of our minister of social development, the hon paula bennett, who used the private information of two beneficiaries against them most effectively, in order to silence dissent. the women were subject to intense harassment, simply for speaking out against the scrapping of the training incentive allowance. the case is still not resolved but until it is, it can only act as a deterrent to others who suffer from injustice.

i think of privacy as a precious thing and am grateful that the bulk of my life remains private. even though there are a lot things that would be useful to share, i'm not sure i'd like my life to be exposed to public scrutiny & judgement. so i'm thankful for having the choice of being able to reveal what i wish, and to conceal what i wish.

the organisation to support in the area of privacy would of course be the nz council of civil liberties. i think internet nz also have done stuff on internet privacy issues.

so if you're one of those who have had their privacy invaded with detrimental consequences of any kind, even if it's only mild discomfort, my thoughts and prayers are with you.

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