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Truth is treason in an empire of lies

Comments (3)
  1. Sanyo says:

    Hi, Bryan, this article, like all your other articles, is thought-provoking.

    I’m just wondering about two points:

    1) Someone pointed out that internet companies are privy to our personal details – from the emails we sent, the Facebook comments we left to the articles we read – and these companies aren’t shy to export these personal details for sale to advertisers.

    Does it make sense for the government to know less about us that these money-making companies?

    This discussion about ethics of public policy and privacy rights is interesting. BUT it doesn’t seem rooted in today’s reality where our personal details are already collated without our complete awareness, especially since we tend to click ‘I agree’ whenever any window pops up without going through the full legal details listed on that window. The debate about ethics is fascinating, but hardly practical.

    It seems, to me at least, that learning how to deal with such easily accessible information about people should be the way forward, rather than a passionate ‘the government should not have my information!’ outcry.

    2)I think that you’re conflating the two issues. The NSA scandal is different in its intentions from the latest MDA regulations. The NSA purports to collect information about the public; it does not control what the public reads.

    The MDA regulations, however, is about having a modicum of control over the online materials that the public reads.

    Like you, I’m confused and disappointed with the latest MDA rulings. However, I don’t think that the two issues are comparable. They are different in their natures and intentions.

    Regards.

    1. Bryan Cheang says:

      Hi Sanyo, thank you for your reply. You raise good questions here.

      1) The difference between private companies knowing our information and government getting our information is that the former is voluntary and based on consent, the latter, on coercion that you cannot escape from.

      If we are not happy with private companies getting our information, we can always opt out of it. Or if they break a contractual obligation to us, they can be punished (eg when giving away our information if we did not contractually consent to it).

      Ethics by definition is of course not practical. But ethics can help guide our choices when we reflect on various alternatives. I wanted to focus on ethics because many might just focus on the practical effects of censorship or non censorship. I think principles and practical considerations should be reflected together. No problem with that.

      Also, my stand is not a dogmatic “government should not get any information”. The government has a role to play which requires our information, but it has to be done via the rule of law through proper procedures, without infringing on rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights for example. Thats why the NSA case is so distasteful.

      2) You correctly pointed out that the MDA regulation is meant to curtail our access to information, while the NSA is about obtaining information. I am fully aware of this. But my argument is not weakened by this distinction because it is not founded on it.

      My focus was that both the NSA and MDA regulation represents the expansion of government power over the individual and his rights. The MDA regulation is a state-initiative that infringes on the right to free speech and right to own private property and transact with it. The NSA snooping is an infringement on the 4th amendment and the right to privacy. In both cases the individual becomes less free in the face of a leviathan state.

      I, am just like you, disappointed abt the MDA’s rulings. But, unlike you, I am not confused, because the nature of the state is very predictable, it acts in certain ways and seeks to maintains its position always. My hope is that we will know this well so we will not be shocked when something like that happens again.

      Once again, thank you very much for your comments, appreciate them.

    2. Sanyo says:

      Thanks for the clarification, Bryan! I’ll muse about what you said :]

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Established in 2009, The Kent Ridge Common is the independent daily of the National University of Singapore. Writers comprise largely of current undergrads with select alumni contributing to the paper. Opinions expressed are of the writer's own. Please visit our disclaimer page for our terms and conditions.
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