EDITORIAL: There’s no such thing as privacy
For years now there has been no such thing as guaranteed privacy for anyone using the Internet or any electronic device for texting, voice messaging, viewing images or transferring funds.
Spying is something that ordinary citizens do not like but in today’s world it has to be accepted as a reality. This phenomenon has exploded following the leaking of top-secret information by computer geek Edward Snowden, the fugitive whistleblower of the United States’ National Security Agency (NSA).
It goes without saying that all countries spy on their allies and adversaries, but most try to maintain an element of decency. However, Snowden has perhaps compelled the world community to rethink the policy of spying and breaching privacy in this fast world of digital information.
Snowden has consistently maintained that he “acted in the public interest” and took strict precautions with his data. He opined that by sparking a debate, the public would be better capacitated to make informed decisions about which freedoms they would willingly trade for national security.
Since June, each new leak has outdone the other. There was the news about spying on Mexico’s President Felipe Calderon; then the wiretapping of 70 million French citizens and the cellphone of Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel. Unfortunately, for the German chancellor to believe that the NSA would benevolently omit her from its intelligence gathering efforts because Germany is an ally, is somewhat naïve at best. Germany might be an ally, not necessarily Merkel.
In any event, in international politics there are no eternal allies. There are alliances of varying degrees of solidity, shifting in shape and form according to unfolding political events, which is a feature of American foreign policy.
There is a draft resolution against excessive spying and right to privacy being mooted at the United Nations (UN). The European Union is demanding a new set of rules and regulations on extraterritorial surveillance of communications, their interception and collection of personal data.
Though the move at the UN is still in its primitive stage, it is too early to speculate what impact the resolution will be able to make on state-centric affairs, as UN General Assembly recommendations are non-binding in nature.
What has emerged from these leaks is that they have greatly influenced the thinking of the common masses and drawn a thin line between state secrecy and the rights of citizens which should be limited to national security and delicate diplomatic negotiations.
It is laughable that in Barbados contracts between individuals and companies and state corporations should be shrouded in secrecy and non-disclosure clauses without debate in Parliament. It is an affront to the citizens of this country.
In this vein, it is time the long-mooted Freedom Of Information Act is passed in Parliament where citizens would have access to important information affecting them. Then there will be no need for politicians to accuse public servants of sabotage.