Lemony Snicket’s famous children’s novel series, “A Series of Unfortunate Events”, is the perfect description for 2016: the year of Brexit, the year Donald Trump got elected president, the year of Choi Soon-sil gate, and the year Harambe died for our sins. And it seems the British are not done with adding their part to this pile of, to be polite, feces.
With what seemed to be nothing more than a sneeze of disapproval, the United Kingdom Parliament passed the Investigatory Powers Act. The act, nicknamed Snoopers’ Charter, allows security agencies to hack into anyone’s personal computers and mobile phones. It also requires internet service providers to retain a full list of every website each user has accessed and have then made available to a wide range of government bodies. In his novel 1984, George Orwell wrote about a fictional persona called “Big Brother” watching over the populace of a dystopian state. However, in the UK, “The taxman, the fireman, and the Food Standards Agency are watching you” as all of these authorities can get their own copies of the lists.
The UK Parliament’s actions are on par to those of the prominent dictatorships of the past and present. They scrutinize people’s every move and fiercely storm into and violate their privacy all for the sake of security. It is unfair to only criticize the UK for keeping prying eyes orbiting around its people. The governments of the US, France, and even South Korea are known for their invasive surveillance of citizens’ lives.
Some probing here and there does not hurt. A doctor might poke you a few times to find possible malignant tumors or the reason for your stomachache. However, if they start bringing out sharper and sharper instruments, putting more force behind their poking, and examining some odd places, you would understandably be alarmed. It is the same with mass surveillance. Surveillance can aid in finding the culprit behind a robbery or to discover the hideout of criminal group. However, once the government starts installing newer methods for deeper investigation and starts using these methods on the average Joe, there is a problem.
Mass surveillance laws allow the government to restrain people’s freedom. In Korea, it is not uncommon to hear about cases in which people have been investigated or detained for their online activity. Officials claim that attacks or criticism on the government are attempts to undermine the country in support of our red neighbors, North Korea. With this excuse, the Korean government closely monitors the internet and online messaging services, such as the widespread KakaoTalk, to inhibit criticism and promote their own agenda. True online freedom of speech is nothing more than a myth in the country.
As your privacy is taken away, so is your freedom. Everything you say and do can be scrutinized, twisted, or taken out of context, and used for the advantage of those in power. Only we, the people, can prevent the powerful from becoming more powerful. It is not the government that should keep its people in check, but the people who should keep their government in check.