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As the privacy debates rages globally, govts diametrically opposite in their creation & thought processes, US & China end up doing the same thing, albeit in different way, working on the same strength of technology. Internet was supposed to herald a new age of freedom, beyond national boundaries, but has become trapped by national govts with international reach on data. All forms of democratic oversight thus get completely negated.

Jeremy Bentham’s conception of panopticon is that people become conformist once they feel they are being observed. This is the epitome of social control. How do you behave when a police is driving alongside? Imagine how would a country behave when state agents listen to all phone calls.

What we believed was that it was impossible to control the internet, the Chinese experiment has proved it to be otherwise. Golden Shield or commonly known Great Firewall of China, is in full operation. It took eight years & 700 million dollars to build, is running pretty well, to block the whole population from the outer world. This is govt. censorship by design. Vietnam’s Decree 72 bans people from discussing current affairs online.

US does it in democratic style, with laws & technology in place, spreading the mortal fear of terrorism. Colombia University law professor Eben Moglen wrote, ”omnibus invasive listening creates fear. And that fear is the enemy of reasoned, ordered liberty.” Post 9/11 surveillance made writers to self-censor. They assiduously avoid writing & researching on certain subjects. Lawyers are careful on working on anything even with distant intelligence interest. The repercussions are wide & varied.

Being opaque has become the alter ego of US govt. Snowden claims himself to be a whistleblower & others too. But not the US govt. The fear of scrutiny of present & past is being drilled into the population. Political discourse gets impacted. There is value in dissent; liberty & freedom are enmeshed into it.


Sanjay Sahay

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