Why Privacy?

privacy three wise monkeys variation


To think that I was afraid that I wouldn´t find a hook for this one…
Just now, as we are busy with things like refugees, elections and economy, Austria is on bringing a new bill on the way that makes surveillance of each and every citizen without judicial order (and control) an easy job. Intelligence services are to be established, one for every state and an additional one for nationwide investigations. One might think that we were at least as big as the US.
The assignment of paid snitches (confidential informants) is to be legalized (because it works oh so well in Germany…), the investigation in the social milieu and every bit of data of the parties concerned to become standard practice and all of that to extremely vague statutory provisions, so practically without reasonable suspicion.

That is why, before getting to the actual subject, I want to ask all of my Austrian readers to take a look at (and sign) the petition against this new law on https://www.staatsschutz.at/, there you can also get more detailed information and links concerning the subject.
I´m am far from being an expert in these matters and if you want profound insight in the matter you are well served there. What I want to talk about at this point are the social effects of surveillance rather than legal details.


Privacy is, contrary to its name, not a phenomenon that only affects the individuals concerned. Surveillance, resp. the option of surveillance, holistically impacts the society we live in.
There is one “great” slogan that annoys me to the bone:

“If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear”

Firstly – is that the biggest bull… horns I ever heard. Who would want the world to know how he behaved while plastered, what he looks like when he has a gastric flu or what he was up to in the cellar when he was 12 years old? Everyone has something to hide and the right to hide it.

Secondly – This isn´t even true for the theoretical human being that never had a drop of alcohol, is never ill and was never 12 years old. He too is not alone on this world.


It is important for all of us that there are people, journalists or private persons, who stand up against social injustices. If that doesn´t happen the injustices will not be eradicated and will probably get worse as time goes by. That we all are affected by, secrets or no secrets.

And surveillance, especially without restrictions, makes standing up to something not only more difficult but above all more dangerous.
People who protest against something can easily attract the attention of secret services, this can ruin their lives and in extreme cases their survival can be at stake. Who would really like to use their civil rights, to protest and to speak freely, under these circumstances, and that´s what this is about!


And after a while something else happens: We begin to censor ourselves.
If we are always confronted with the option of being monitored we behave differently, more conformistically, spouses, children, parents, friends, what we do might endanger them.
And the longer we are in this state the more rarely we will speak up or strike a new path.

Just imagine for a moment that everywhere in your home and at your person there were cameras that transfer everything you do, every second of your life, to a person you don´t know. Would you really behave as usual?
I wouldn´t, many a joke I would keep to myself, avoid many subjects, rarely talk about political injustices, my exchange with my environment, my voice would be severely constrained.
I wish I was the kind of hero that doesn´t bow to such conditions and speak his mind anyway, but I don´t think I would be this kind of person. I do have something to loose and a big part of humanity has also.
This is, of course, a very extreme example, but little by little and over a long time this is basically what happens. Behaviour adapts to surveillance.


And even if we generously assume that our government will use surveillance responsibly and only in emergencies (and seriously, who actually trusts them to do that):
Who can guarantee that the next government will keep it up like that?
Once implemented such laws are very difficult to get rid of again, especially if a government wants to use them to their advantage.

I don´t think we should get used to google, facebook and government knowing everything about us all the time.
I think we should get used to demand our right to privacy.

credits: CCTV Vektors by spoongraphics


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