Concerns over violations of privacy can too easily fall into a fear spiral of worst case scenarios. I think privacy is a very important staple of a free society, but we have to keep it in perspective, and weigh both the pros and cons of privacy (and the government-backed violation of it) in a reasonable, calm, logical manner.
I say that because it always surprises me just how outraged people are at the proposed idea that the government will store the DNA of all newborns for the purpose of quickly identifying them via matching of DNA samples at the scene of a crime. It’s a good instinct, but I don’t like how much irrational emotion (vs reason) is often behind it.
DNA, like fingerprints, is biometric information that can be used to efficiently identify an individual with near-perfect accuracy. At hearing this, immediately people begin imagining the oppressive horrors of a mass surveillance state. But does a national DNA database really provide the government with broad oppressive power? And if it did, do we really have the kind of system that would utilize that power to violate the fundamental rights of individuals?
If it’s not clear yet, I’m a proponent of storing DNA of all citizens. I believe that DNA information is the perfect kind of identifier that the government should have. It can’t really be used to track an individual, but it can be used in the case of a crime to identify potential suspects.
The outrage in response to The News of the World hacking scandal confuses me. Reporters were caught stealing data in cyberspace. They crossed ethical and legal lines. It’s wrong, and they should be punished, but I believe the goal was the same noble goal as is behind the ideal of an objective reporter. They weren’t fabricating the truth, they were after the truth in ways that violated privacy laws, etc.
I have long looked at Murdoch as one of the key people that contributes to our society’s decline into a Brave New World, turning news into entertainment, and thus diluting the value of truth. Opinions are more entertaining than facts. Murdoch is a great businessman because he has mastered the art of mass-producing divisive and controversial opinions.
Hacking is bad, but not evil. What is evil is the overshadowing of the little objective truth there is in our complex world by the bright lights of the latest shiny distractions the media chooses to focus on for the sake of better ratings.
So, to reiterate, I think that Murdoch and his approach to media in print and video is destructive to any hope of well-reasoned and informed debate. However, I just don’t find the latest hacking scandal at all related or comparable to the much more troubling trend of turning news into “infotainment”.
The following cartoon from the Denver Post echoes the point I’m trying to make: