Fiction Of Privacy

Image of Peter Scott.
Image of Peter Scott.

“If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself.” – George Orwell

There is no more privacy. We’ve known this for a long time now. When Edward Snowden released the government documents on PRISM and the NSA, people freaked out. The irony is that we already knew we didn’t have privacy anymore. It’s been a truth implicitly passed down over the past couple of years and only after it was explicitly mentioned do we pay mind to it.

Bobble Johnson writes, “The rise of social networking online means that people no longer have an expectation of privacy, according to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.”

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We decry the lack of privacy yet we’ve handed it over without a second thought. We’ve enabled location services on our phones, we allow our map applications to track our location, and we post on Foursquare, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram telling people where we are. We say we’re going to certain events on Facebook, we purchase tickets for shows and movies online, and we use our debit or credit card everywhere.

We think we have the audacity to decry the government using surveillance techniques on us? Our lives have practically become open books thanks to the advent of social media.

There is no more privacy.

Yet a poll from Annalect showed an 11% increase in people concerned about their privacy online, 48% to 57%, thanks to the NSA leaks. We’ve handed our privacy over to the masses yet we still think we should be concerned?

But say, for a moment, we are concerned. Say hypothetically we don’t like the government spying on us. There may be more to the story than we think. Keith Pavilschek writes for Christianity Today that, “the debate is reduced to a simplistic choice between good (the right to privacy) and evil (government surveillance).” He goes on to say,

“The prevailing suspicion that NSA ‘spies’ are cavalier about the privacy rights of citizens couldn’t be further from the truth. The culture of the NSA, from its leadership to entry-level analysts, tilts radically in the opposite direction, toward an almost fanatical obligation to protect Americans’ privacy rights.”

We Americans love our individualistic choices. We forget a lot of the time that there is a God who knows all. “And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Heb. 4:13), “the Lord knows the thoughts of man, that they are but a breath” (Ps. 94:11), “for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything” (1 John 3:20).

There never has been any privacy. For God knows all things, as the theological term describes Him, He is omniscient in His foreknowledge and foreordained plans. Granted, there is a difference between a governing body of fallible humans and an all-knowing and eternal God. What then does this tell us about how we approach the topic of online, even offline, privacy?

Paul recounts it best in Romans 13, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.”

Does this mean we roll over and let the government do it’s bidding? Of course not, Paul and Silas rebelled against the authorities of the time and continued to proclaim the gospel. Can there be a common good associated with governmental oversight of its citizens?

Gen. Keith Alexander. Image from
Gen. Keith Alexander. Image from

Gen. Keith Alexander said during a hearing at the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence that, “In recent years, these programs, together with other intelligence, have protected the U.S and our allies from terrorist threats across the globe to include helping prevent the potential terrorist events over 50 times since 9/11.”

The government is charged with protecting its citizens and since we have handed them our privacy, why are we complaining that they are monitoring us?

Craig Timberg ironically writes,

“There has often been public resignation to eroding privacy, some advocates say. Outrage over changes to Facebook privacy settings, or to Google’s scooping up of user data through its Street View program, has generally subsided not long after the initial publicity.”

Much more could be said and has already been said on this issue. What do you think: Can the government be “just” in monitoring its citizens? Do we have a right to be concerned about privacy? Does it really matter?

There never has been any privacy.

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