Google never forgets, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and the list goes on. All your personal Data is saved; photos that you once downloaded; personal information that you once shared on Facebook, when it was launched. Furthermore, almost every government in Europe placed surveillance cameras in many public areas in their cities to capture the criminal acts or even prevent these acts. In Germany they discuss whether it should be allowed to monitor the phones for the sake of the people`s safety because members of terror groups can be identified more easily and in general criminals can be detect in an effective manner.
One scenario that happened to me, that describes the dimension of how much information they already have about us, was when I was in a train to Germany last week. I sat in front of an elegantly dressed Viennese and next to me was a Frenchman with Arab roots dressed in sweatpants and hoodie. At some point police officers came and they wanted to carry out a customs control. Before they proceed they asked for our ID, so they could call the central office to get the required information of us. Depending on the information they got, they decided to either precede the control or to stop it. The elegantly dressed Viennese and I went not through a control whereas the Frenchman did. Probably his personal information was suspicious.
We want to live a safe life but we also want to have privacy!
Is that compatible nowadays?
Another question that keeps me busy is can we be ourselves, when we know we are monitored, when we are manipulated by the ads and when we know once we put something online it will never forget?
In order to illustrate my thought let´s take an extreme case, where people seem to have barely privacy and might be limited in their natural behaviour in daily life.
The extreme system I will briefly touch on is called the “social credit system”. This system was lunched in 2015 in China. Citizens get ranked based on their social credit, meaning that almost every Chinese get points depending on their social behaviour. The score ranges between 350-950 and in 2020 the government wants to score all Chinese citizens to control them. In order to be able to distribute scores to the citizens, 200 million surveillance cameras are placed in the cities to track each individual. You are just a number and depending on your behaviour your score will increase or decrease. You have to be careful what you say and what you do. You are constantly under observation. The lower your score, the lower you get in society. I think even more dramatic; you get punishments and rewards for your behaviour.
This case in China is very extreme and I would feel very limited in my freedom to live.
I think I speak for most of us if I say that as children we did many tricks on other people. Some of us did not the most reflected things, when we were in puberty. Our hormones and emotions influenced our behaviour and we did not deliberately think about our actions in advance. Afterwards we were ashamed, hopefully most of us were. However, after some months we laughed about it and years later we look back and say we were just little kids. It was a mistake, but we can laugh about it and it will vanish.
But now, it is different. If you do something embarrassing, people will capture it immediately and put it on various social medias. Why they capture it is a different story, but that they capture it, will change your life. People will laugh about it, but this time not just you and your friends. No, the whole world will laugh and they will laugh for years! You will look back and say what did I do. Once something was online it will never forget. At the end you will not laugh about it. Last month a 19-year-old in Liverpool committed suicide after he was bullied and blackmailed over naked pictures. This is just one case but I can imagine many people suffer and are bullied because of one wrong picture that they uploaded.
Other photos or videos not just lead to bulling and mental health problems they also might cost you your career.
Nowadays you have to be careful what you are saying. China is a very extreme case but we will never know when we will get there.
These causes might let us think how we will appear in daily life; we don’t want to be perceived as the embarrassing person in the World Wide Web. In order to avoid this you try to behave as accurate as possible in society. This is what happens in China and I have my doubt if the Chinese can be themselves in the streets of China!
The social credit score in China is a terrifying scenario and it always reminds me of one of the episodes of Black Mirror. Reducing people to a number is dehumanizing and makes us easier to control. This truly is a look at a dystopian future.
Hey Philipp! I enjoyed reading this blogpost and wondered what is to come while scrolling down through it. I wasn’t as informed about the social credit score system in China so I can say that I learned something new today. First of all, I really want to say that O bet the control in the train wasn’t just a coincidence or due to his information/records but I believe that there is probably stereotyping involved in that instance as well. Furthermore, regarding your question about the change and pressing of self due to certain regulations and possible concesquences is in my opinion a valid and a important one especially currently. Even though I think we are loosing or supressing a part of ourselves in order to appear and remembered in a positive manner, not to end up in a jail, face a lawsuit or loose our jobs; but I don’t think that this has just a one on one relationship with the use and memory of digital media. As far as we can remember, we were all raised in societies where certain things were right and wrong, there were clear cut roles for us that we had to follow and therefore we have always been holding pack and suppression a part of ourselves. Yes maybe the media usage accelerates the process while also increasihg the audience of certain appearances but still on one hand I think this is not recet news ehile on the other hand I also think that we shouldnt be doing things that we don’t want to be seen or at least share them. And if we do or did then we should have already known about the possible consequences and reactions that it would bring