I have many friends coming from Singapore and Malaysia who are amazed that people in Australia have no National Registration Identification or the IC card. Instead most people use the driving licence as a form of identification. This is a norm in the Anglo Saxon countries, and the explanation I’ve got is that the people want to keep their personal data out of the reach of government as much as possible – they just do not trust their governments with their private details like their date of birth, parent names, sex, address, blood type etc. Hence, no IC card.
The irony is that people don’t seem to care much about revealing their personal data, their preferences, the places they visited, their intimate photos and generally revealing a lot about themselves in the Facebook. The authors of the book “Deep State: Inside the Government Secrecy Industry” (Ambinder and Grady) describe the Facebook owner Mark Zuckerberg as running the biggest spy machine, much of it can be accessed by the US government.
Here’s excerpt from the book ….
Mark Zuckerberg runs a giant spy machine in Palo Alto, California. He wasn’t the first to build one, but his was the best, and every day hundreds of thousands of people upload the most intimate details of their lives to the Internet. The real coup wasn’t hoodwinking the public into revealing their thoughts, closest associates, and exact geographic coordinates at any given time. Rather, it was getting the public to volunteer that information. Then he turned off the privacy settings.
“People have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds, but more openly and with more people,” said Zuckerberg after moving 350 million people into a glass privacy ghetto. “That social norm is just something that has evolved over time.”
If the state had organised such an information drive, protestors would have burned down the White House. But the state is the natural beneficiary of this new “social norm.” Today, that information is regularly used in court proceedings and law enforcement. There is no need for warrants or subpoenas. Judges need not be consulted. The Fourth Amendment does not come into play. Intelligence agencies don’t have to worry about violating laws protecting citizenry from wiretapping and information gathering. Sharing information “more openly” and with “more people” is a step backward in civil liberties. And spies, whether foreign or domestic, are “more people,” too.
Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, knows better than anyone how to exploit holes in the secrecy apparatus to the detriment of American security. His raison d’être is to blast down the walls protecting state secrets and annihilate the implicit bargain, yet even he is frightened by the brazenness of Facebook and other such social networking sites:
Here we have the world’s most comprehensive database about people, their relationships, their names, their addresses, their locations and their communications with each other, their relatives, all sitting within the United States, all accessible to the U.S. intelligence. Facebook, Google, Yahoo — all these major U.S. organisations have built-in interfaces for U.S. intelligence. It’s not a matter of serving a subpoena. They have an interface that they have developed for U.S. intelligence to use.
It’s all there, and the Internet never forgets. But even if the impossible happened and the Internet did somehow develop selective amnesia, in the case of microblogging service Twitter, the Library of Congress has acquired every message ever posted by its two hundred million members.