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Personal Privacy Is A Myth

Written by  Jun 24, 2013
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Are you avoiding Social Media because of privacy issues?

Spying on others has been around probably as long as prostitution which is regarded as the oldest profession in the world.

Neighbours checking on neighbours to spice up dull lives, countries at war trying to outwit each other, industrial espionage to gain a business advantage have been acceptable throughout the ages.

Everything is fine and dandy until you get caught.

SpyingImage courtesy of Idea go at FreeDigitalPhotos.netSouth Africa introduced the Promotion of Access to Information Action in 2000 which required public companies and private businesses to make information about their organisations publicly available. 

In 2001 in South Africa FICA (The Financial Intelligence Centre Act) was promulgated to: 

"To establish and maintain an effective policy and compliance framework and operational capacity to oversee compliance and to provide high quality, timeous financial intelligence for use in the fight against crime, money laundering and terror financing in order for South Africa to protect the integrity and stability of its financial system, develop economically and be a responsible global citizen.

As law abiding South African citizens we have no choice. If you want to retain your bank accounts, credit cards, store accounts, municipal accounts, buy a home or car, rent a property etc you have to be prepared to provide on demand, proof of where you live, your identity document, bank statements, tax number, payslips and/or any other such documents the service provider deems necessary "according to the Act".

We have no guarantee of the security of the information we provide "in terms of FICA" as our documents are taken, frequently by the most junior clerk, to be copied, stamped and "filed". How many of you, reading this article, have had to re-submit FICA documents because the Bank has lost them? Where did those documents go?

These are the same financial institutions which provide online banking services and have done away with almost all brick and mortar based customer service. We live in a world where it is no longer an option to not have a bank account so we comply with any and every requirement put in place by our bank. We have no choice and rarely any comeback should our details be made public in error or our bank accounts compromised.

Our privacy was further limited with the introduction of RICA (The Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-Related Information Act) in 2003 which regulates the interception of communications and associated processes such as applications for and authorisation of interception of communications. This law requires us to provide the same information required in terms of FICA, to the clerks and sales people at the cell phone companies. Most of us are not prepared to give up our cell phones so we comply. Who knows where that information goes.

passportstampsShould you wish to travel to a foreign country you have to be prepared to provide bank statements for 3 months, letters from your employer, details of your investments and assets and reams of other documents in order to obtain a visa. Your choice is to stay home or be compliant.

We have made "legally" available information about where we live, what we earn, where we bank, what we buy, what we look like, what assets we own available to a huge range of people who may or may not use this information to steal from us, blackmail us or profit from us in various ways.

Now let's look at the internet and social media.

We have a choice whether we have a company or personal website and we can choose what information to display. We can choose to sell our products and services online and therefore increase our market share.

We can also choose whether we want to buy books, music, movies, software, groceries, clothing, flowers for our friend in hospital using the various online options available. It is our choice whether we hand over our credit card information to the service provider.

We do not have to join Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, Tumblr and the many other networks out there. If we do join these we have choice about what information we provide and whether we are making this information available to people we know or the public at large.

For many of us it is a great way of sharing photos and information with friends and families who are far away. Most of us also like to snoop a little on others and enjoy gossip about celebrities and others who have fallen from grace.

Yet it is Social Media and the internet that get the blame for our loss of privacy and theft of our personal information.

Why are we not standing up for our rights and refusing to provide personal information to our governments, foreign governments, financial institutions and other organisations? We have allowed our rights to privacy to be removed with barely a whimper of complaint.

Meanwhile governments and big business in cohorts with them are not happy that all of this information that has been obtained is now being used against them.

What is good for the goose is not good for the gander. Julian Assange and the Wikileaks scandal, Andrew Snowden and the leaking of information from the NSA, News Of The World Phone Hacking Scandal and of course closer to home the spying on South African officials at the G20 summit in 2009 are just some of the problems governments are dealing with.

CCTV cameraOn the positive side for ordinary citizens is that we now have information about corruption and white collar crime that is so rampant in our government and corporate businesses. The collusion in the construction industry, the bread price fixing disgrace, and of course Nkandla are just a few that come to mind.

It is thanks to modern technology and freely available information that these crimes are now in the public domain.

Our government is now running scared and has introduced the Protection of (State) Information Bill and is able to cover up wrong doing by declaring reports "top secret"

As ordinary citizens you and I have to keep our noses clean, use passwords that are as secure as we can make them and choose carefully what we share on social media.

I know I won't be putting up a webcam in my bathroom and I don't post pictures of children without their parents permission.

However I will continue to be an active user of social media and other technology.

Read 76480 times Last modified on Wednesday, 07 September 2016 16:28
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