The Rise of the “Watcher Society”

My comment to this post on Hugh Howey’s “Wayfinder” blog…

It’s silly (sad even) that we live in a society where we are “watched” to see if we do anything “wrong.” (Both quoted terms are used loosely).

You could go to a beach, and while having fun doing some sort of dance be caught on video (uploaded to YouTube) for public spectacle (good or bad).

In this instance, Eli is who he is, and I respect that. I’m not going to judge him in any way, shape or form based on minutes of video. The sports media might (I’m not sure if they did), but why can’t Eli just go to his brother’s football game and watch it in whatever way suits him best?

Even if he is considered a “public figure” … that doesn’t mean every single morsel of his life needs to be turned upside down. (Not saying Hugh did that, he is of course sharing his awesome wisdom based on that).

Assume the best in people, indeed. Don’t fall for the public spectacle “knee-jerk” reactions (especially prompted by media). We all have faults, every single one of us. That doesn’t mean that every single instance that gets caught on a viewing media needs to be explicated 10^99.

We need to quit watching each other so much, assume better of people as Hugh has so eloquently pointed out, and focus more on the moments that actually mean something (in the big picture).

As for the Cam Newton share by Nan, good on him.


 

Further comments about the Watcher Society

Some of us worry about the NSA overreach into our private lives, and participate in activism to combat it.

But there’s one form of overreach that is becoming insane, and if we are to expect the NSA to quit watching everything we do … then we need to adopt behaviors that support the idea.

Otherwise, in the Watcher Society, you won’t be able to move around and live like a human being.

Every move you make will be watched in some form by someone, and even posted to public media without your consent to be scrutinized without proper context.

That is a dangerous society to live in for numerous reasons I won’t detail here.

And we are better than that (I hope).

On “Transparency Is Good For Society” versus “Privacy”

The fact that transparency was brought in as a justification for a “better” society is telling.  Here are my two points…

1.  Why do you think transparency “seems” to be a thing that society “gains” from?  Think about the motive behind that idea.  There are multiple layers to the motive, some are okay (I suppose), and some aren’t (corporate, advertising, tracking, NSA, etc…).

Transparency is marketed as “better” partly because of the media itself, so that companies like Facebook, Twitter, Google et al can make their money.  If we weren’t “transparent” at all, they couldn’t collect our content and tailor advertising to us (as an over-simplified example).

So the version of transparency we encounter in our society is an illusion … and a follow up question would be “How was society before all of this ‘transparency’ we have now?”  My answer … in the big picture, about the same specifically as it refers to transparency defined by all of us exposing ourselves online via the media tools available (each with a profit-driven responsibility to investors and shareholders).

That being said … the one big caveat to this being there are specific situations where the idea of transparency can help society.  I am concerned (big picture) about our overall ability as a society to properly manage that transparency when you factor in the totality of the interests in using this transparency as a tool for societal improvement.

Short version:  Any media tool can be used for both good and bad purposes.

Which brings me to #2…

2.  We tend to harbor the illusion that privacy always means “something or things bad we hide from everybody else all of the time.”

That is[1] hardly[2] ever[3] the actual[4] case in reality.  Not never the case, because privacy is also a tool of sorts … so it can be used for both bad and good purposes.

So, from a societal standpoint … which is the basis of your question…

Privacy is absolutely necessary to provide the opportunity for honest, good, and well-meaning people in our society (most people) to have a place that is difficult (hopefully impossible) for any part of the rest of society (containing those wishing to harm) to exploit that place of privacy in any way.  A place of privacy is what allows us to be truly human, to be ourselves.

Yes, that does include the “bad” things like allowing “bad” people that same privacy.  But the way I see it, our privacy is one thing we cannot sacrifice in the name of some societal mission to accomplish other objectives (whatever those objectives may be, which aren’t always clearly defined).

Bad things will always happen, and taking privacy away (in the name of some version of full transparency) won’t solve that problem.  It will merely change the kinds of problems we encounter (which will likely be just as “bad” as the problems we had with the opportunity for an area of privacy, just in different ways).

Slow Privacy

With the recent developments concerning the NSA… we have to have a big, unified, and thorough discussion on privacy.

Slow privacy.

The difference between privacy and “slow” privacy lies in how anything concerning the privacy of the citizens of our country is presented.

Take Facebook for example… they push the boundaries of our privacy all the time.  They’ll come out with a feature, seemingly wait to get push back on that feature if it violates our idea of privacy… then finally make a change.

It’s a process.

That’s “regular” privacy.

Slow privacy would be the same scenario, but instead of Facebook just pushing out a feature, and trying to push its version of privacy on the world… instead they go more slowly… and listen to the community FIRST, to see if that feature is even necessary or could be improved in a “beta” mode that doesn’t affect the 1 BILLION accounts in that community.

Go slowly.

Slow privacy ALSO pertains to giving us, the users, the consumers… a means to set boundaries that ALL companies, media, Government etc… MUST abide by.  A set of “privacy terms” for us as users.

Because let’s face it, every one of us is different in our expectations of privacy… some people are willing to reveal more, and some less, of ourselves online and offline.  These terms would also immediately establish ownership of said data (like emails, posts, etc…).

So, these terms would tell other companies EXACTLY how they can use our data, if we want to be private… we can be.  If we don’t, we don’t have to be.

Just because people want their privacy, doesn’t mean they want to hide anything, and actually privacy establishes these “terms.”