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Welcome to 'Prison Earth'!

Zafar Anjum | Dec. 16, 2008
Is our quest for more security at the cost of our privacy?

Recently, I read a story in The New York Times about a brothel in Prague. It is called the Big Sister (perhaps an allusion to the Orwellian Big Brother) which touts itself as the worlds biggest Internet brothel.

Big Sister marries the virtual with the real, leading to an unusual business model. Customers can have free sex at Big Sister. In return, they will allow the brothel to capture their exploits on film. The resulting porn is streamed live onto Big Sisters website.

But the newspaper report was not about the innovativeness of Big Sisters business model. Through the brothels example, the report highlighted how the ongoing global financial crisis was affecting the brothels business as the number of sex tourists coming to Prague had diminished.

The reason I cite this example is not because I want to talk about pornography or the economic crisis. My intention is to illustrate how people willfully submit their privacy (a human right) to profit-seekers.

In Big Sisters case, the momentary carnal pleasure comes as freebie but the ultimate price that is extracted from the revellers is pricelesshuman privacy. Moments of compromised privacy is broadcast to those who find value in it on Sky Italia and Britains Television X, or sold as a DVD, like World Cup Love Truck.

Whats scary here? Ones privacy is gone for ever but it has not been taken at a gun point. One has willingly signed it off for a (Faustian?) bargain.

Whats the connection, you might ask. Replace sex with search, and you will get the point. But we will come to that a bit later.

Children of Men

Now take an example closer to home. Both SingTel and Starhub have mobile tracking and video camera services that allow parents to keep an eye on their children and their caretakers (ads have recently come out). Using these services, a parent will instantly know where his child is or how the maid is treating the child.

From a security point of view, this sounds like a good device. Which parent does not want to make sure that her child is out of harms way? Fair enough.

But what about the child? Isnt his sense of freedom lost forever, his every moment tracked and monitored? From the house to the lift, from the bus to the classroom, from the gym to the mallevery move, every bit of conversation and action can be recorded. Now, there are even billboards in Japan that can watch your back. A never-ending prison for the child!

Now replace the child with a grown up. You. How would you feel if each and every moment of your life is monitored and available for scanning to the big brotherthe government (parent), the banks and financial institutions and powerful corporations of the world? How free will you feel?


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