Advancements in communication technology has shrunk the size of our planet. Access to information which would take hours (or days) to obtain in previous times, can now be accessed almost instantaneously by anyone, anywhere across the globe. Such advancements have allowed many of us to keep in contact with remote friends and extended family. For some of us, there is less feeling of regret when friends or family members pass away, because we have at least had the chance to talk with them.
Communications also has its dark side. You accidentally communicate with someone you’ve successfully avoided for a long time. You communicate with someone who is creepy. You have someone stalking you, reading your personal email or letters, listening in on your conversations or voicemail. You also have agencies doing the same thing, hopefully with all good intentions on making you more safe.
There is no denying it: as history has told us, with more power comes responsibility not to abuse such power. However, there will be abuse of that power, whether it is real or perceived. One such example is an agency listening in or monitoring your communications. Chances are good that- if left unchecked- intrusions into a person’s private life will grow. Regulations governing the use of that power will weaken, and laws will be broken. The power entrusted in those agencies to keep us safe may become corrupt and out of control.
For some (regardless of motivation) there is a belief that those who abuse that power should be exposed or jailed. The trend in whistle blowing is picking up steam. More people and groups look to expose what they believe are illegitimate practices by governments who are taking more control over our private lives. New threats, and how to deal with those threats, are evolving- and more quickly along with new ways of intelligence gathering. Although some of the players or ideology may have changed, I believe that the Cold War is alive and well.
How do we address the growing trend in how classified information is obtained along with the information gathered? How is the threat of information being released to the public handled (whether done so legally or illegally)? Should governments strip away the so-called glamour that some place on those releasing state secrets by enacting new laws against espionage and aggressively enforcing existing laws? Should being a traitor be portrayed as being ugly and convincing those who glamorize it by changing their thinking through leadership by example?
The new breed of “spies” appears to be gaining foothold. What they do can result in risking lives of others. Some of those “spies” probably don’t have a clear understanding of what the consequences resulting from their actions. Some are short-sighted about the impact their actions cause. Some are labeled as heroes and that is one of many reasons they release damning documents.
I don’t support those who decide to spill state secrets, even though I hope their actions result in exposing corruption and illegal practices. At the same time, I hope that what they do is not something resulting in collateral damage and their actions are not counter-productive. Maybe they can save themselves from ruin by going through proper channels or thinking through their actions. What can we learn from technology and how it best serves us and how it can be abused both indirectly and directly and both unintentional and intentional?