Monday, October 24, 2016

When The Need to Know Corrupts the Right to Privacy

The mainstream media continues to get yanked around by the Trump vigilantes.  They have spent the past few weeks pouring through John Podesta's emails, searching for... what?  The comments they are coming up with are notably unspectacular, ideas about Hillary's campaign, reactions to Bernie and then Trump, the kind of stuff that emails are made of.  Free association, ideas, frustrations, and, yes, things that are not said in public.

The media is doing this because they are afraid if they don't they will be accused of favoring Hillary.  And why is that?  They don't have Donald Trump's staff emails to create an actual balance.  What it has done, though, is persuaded the media to distract us from the real issues, again.  As Jon Stewart would say... "SQUIRREL!!"

When did WikiLeaks evolve from being the hero that exposed government lies and deceptions to the tool of the Russian government?  When did they go from vetting submissions for relevance to dumping?  And what on earth is the motivation?

We have forgotten -- SQUIRREL!! -- the hypothesis that Trump has failed to disprove by refusing to divulge his tax records.  What are his ties to the Russian government?  This is the greedy megalomaniac who bought Chinese steel for his buildings to save money.  To what depths would he stoop to gain some advantage by dealing with the Russians?

Glenn Greenwald, who was responsible for releasing the Edward Snowden files, and Naomi Klein, environmentalist and critic of corporate globalization, got together for a truly important discussion of what these email dumps mean to our understanding of privacy.  Some justify the Hillary dumps because she is a powerful person, which begs the question of where that line is drawn.  Who is so powerful that they should lose their right to privacy?

And does that mean that anyone with the resources, from the Russian government to the Kochs, have the right to hack and expose the emails of anyone who they see as sufficiently influential?  Klein points out that her activism has put her in the line of fire, under surveillance by powerful oil industry groups.

If we have the right to eavesdrop on an email conversation, don't we have the right to tap a phone or bug a conference room?  Both have been done, but both are illegal.  With email hacks there is no legal protection; hence, the abandon with which news outlets have gone at the Podesta dumps.

To be fair, this raises the question of other third party releases of information, from the infamous 49 percent quote by Mitt Romney in 2012 to the appalling video of Trump on the Access Hollywood bus.  Would it be fair if someone in the audience during one of Hillary's Wall Street speeches came forward, but not if the same information was released in an email?

I think so.  I think we have had this technology for far too long without commensurate protections.  We need the same strong protections for our communications online as we have (despite attempts at erosion by government surveillance) for our telephone communication.  As we assume we have in our homes.

The failure of government to make our internet secure has a lot to do with government attempts to breach our privacy since 9/11.  Privacy groups have long held that by not allowing private citizens strong encryption, they have made it easier for us all to be hacked by our enemies.  In other words, if our government can get in, others can get in.  It not only makes private citizens more vulnerable, it makes essential government structures more vulnerable, from the Pentagon to our electrical grid.

It has got to start somewhere, folks.  We need to tune in to the importance of the internet privacy issue, and there is no better time to start than now, with Wikileaks gone awry.  We need to have some firm moral and ethical guidelines for where right to privacy ends and right to know begins.

1 comment:

  1. And so, the WikiLeaks guy gets attention drawn away from be extradicted.