Privacy and Security of Data : A Quick Look to Other Side of The Coin
Thursday, October 9, 2014
Privacy and Security of Data : A Quick Look to Other Side of The Coin
We know that new information and communication technologies (ICT) offer governments a new world which is full of opportunities to serve its people efficiently. Presedent Obama’s open government initative is one of the best examples. His words to Mr. Kundra are very explanatory: “Ensure public trust, establish a system of transperancy, public participation and collaboration.” Government activities should be more visible to public so that they can check them, question them, contribute in preparation and implimentation stages of policies”. In order to achieve these goals, information in the government’s hands should be accessible in a usable format to people anytime and anywhere they want. One of the key question here is of course “What kind of information should be provided to public?” The bureaucracy traditionally tends to reveal only tip of the iceberg. There may be some fair reasons for that hesitation such as national security, personal privacy, copyrights, legal issues or practical ones like need of backround information to interpret data. But at the end in one way or another it is possible to find a way to distinguish which is classified and which is not. However, if we want people to participate to government activities and eventually aim to increase our democratic standarts, there is another obstacle we need to overcome in terms of privacy and security.
Concidering they are are more vulnerable than government, people’s security and privacy concerns are as important as government’s. When we jump into digital world and start to use facebook, twitter etc. we begin to share something about us. We can try to take measures although it’s not realistic to expect every person can do that effectively. But even after those measures have been taken, some personel information would go on leaking. Beginning from stepping into this world we are inevitably a part of the big data and preys of the hunters of this land who are using advance techniques to process all that information about us. Apart from commercial and the like examples, this might be a real problem in terms of public participation to government policies. The danger I want to explain here might not posing a real or severe threat to mature democracies where check and balances are working. But if democratic system is already vulnerable and prone to work improperly, there should be real problem. Recent developments in Turkey regarding this argument would be useful to understand the situation.
The Turkish government has been struggling with allegations of corruption and some other political abuses for 10 months. Regardless of the accuracy of claims we can say that they are serious enough to send the government to jail for years. In the begining, the government acted like other western governments for a short time. But after understanding how serious the concequences might be, the government banned media to publish or broadcast the allegations, using the “principle of privacy of indictment until it will be accepted by judge” as an exuse. Social media stepped into scene when traditional media was prohibited. Then allegations and voice records of government members were started be published in an anonymous way and whole country begun to follow live broadcast of allegations in twitter, facebook and youtube. At first the goverment tried to be silent, hoping that not so many more people use the social media tools and learn the story. But statistics showed otherwise. In the meantime the newspapers and TVs went around the ban as if they were mentioning rumours in twitter and youtube not the indictment.
At this stage the government tried to refute claims by government spokesmen, underlying that those are unproven claims. Then the government understood that its strategy serves only spreading of accusation and the more they try to explain the more secrets reveal. The situation were getting dangerous for them since there is an election ahead which may cause them to lose control if they can not win. At this point goverment was so desparate that thay banned youtube and twitter, risking their country to be considered in the same category with North Korea, China and Iran. Yet, the mos problematic part of the story just begun. The government passed a new legislation which made impossible for members of national intelligence service (MIT) to be brought to court without permission of prime minister, even they commit an obvious crime in a live broadcast.
After that following legislations came which allow MIT to monitor, record every kind of media and send reports to prosecutors. Obviously activities which are among people’s natural rights, are no more legal by new laws, these reports became real threats to people who voiced against government in social media. Then they reorganized Presidency of Telecommunication and Communication (TIB) which is responsible for the determination of the communication that are made by telecommunication, listening, evaluation of the signal information and recordings”. Second top director of MIT was assigned as president of this very important institution which enable them to record evrything in the country. (Remember no one can touch him without Prime Minister’s permission). With a recent regulation president of TIB has personally privileged to shut down any web site or page in four hours without any permisson or court order. Now they have every chance to behave arbitrary. Then they tried to force Twitter to give them account holders personel information, threatening them never allow them to open Twitter again. At the and Twitter didn’t agree to give information but they started to blur sites, names of which were given by government (chilling effect). The World only showed some weak reactions, conniving and encouaging them.
There are some problems which are different than routine issues and considering their importance to society, participation of their preparing and implimentation process. But they also have the potential to cause serious concequences for a government. Imagine that you are person living in a such environment and expected to participate these kind of government activities, how come you participate under such circumtances, knowing that every word you say is recorded and stored somewhere to be used against you if desired. And we are talking about being isolated whithin people, marked as enemy of country, to be fired so easily or sent to jail. They are not some stories from old times. There are real peoples experiencing each of these examples right now in the country. 2 milion government employees, their relatives (who are afraid of cousing harm them by speaking), businessmen who are easily can be subject to public sanctions and all people who wants to express themselves in social media are out of game as long as such circumstances persist. You may have fancy new mobile gadgets, twitter accounts etc. but can you participate about explosive matters? How can another government find a way to gain public confidence and convince them to touch significant but burning issues of public and to improve and enrich the democracy. Of course history of mature democracies are full of struggles. There were always ups and downs. An improved democracy is not something that one can has with a snap of his fingers. I hope this a temporary madness or paranthesis in our history like other negative periods. Since crises come with opportunities, I believe that there is no need to be hopeless for the Turkey as long as a significant part of the society is committed to protect their rights.