After working more than a dozen years on biometric identification, the only fool-proof technology to track foreigners and keep America safe, as mandated by legislation in 2004, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has finally come up with face scanning or face printing, a quantum leap from finger printing, and started enforcing it on all outbound air travelers. Does it therefore get kudos and bravos? Yes, from most of us. Unbelievably, however, there are those who, in the name of privacy, trash this breakthrough, the first in the world, as a step toward turning America into Big Brother, the all-knowing and all-controlling.
How on earth will photos of our faces on file do that? Face prints are not all that different from finger prints and we know that the government has all our finger prints without turning into Big Brother. In fact, we insist that it catalogue and maintain them well to help law enforcement. Moreover, advertised online are numerous websites boasting possession of our photos as well as police records, credit scores, and other information but we don’t care. In fact, most of us want our photos to be seen by millions out there, as shown by the photo galleries on Facebook and other social media. Don’t we all crave to be on TV?
Yielding to the necessity of face scanning the privacy advocates are settling for the next level: immediate destruction of the photos of Americans so collected. In a conciliatory gesture DHS is agreeing to deletion after 14 days. That is absurd. We don’t want our finger prints at law enforcement offices to disappear in 14 days. We may as well kiss goodbye to law and order. Our face prints should be kept on as long as there are bad foreigners around intent on harming us.
To put the privacy advocates in their place, to wake America up to the inanity of its fixation on privacy, as if it were some divine commandment to spurn all other imperatives like public safety, and in the hope that Americans respond with more indulgence and civility to friendly inquiries by people from less uptight cultures about their age, occupation, net worth, etc. I am reprinting my 12-27-2013 post on typakmusings.com.
Snowden: Privacy or Safety
Ty Pak | December 27, 2013 | Culture, Korea, Politics, Society
I heard on NPR a Honolulu-based nutcase, dignified as a commentator, piously pour unctuous praises on the traitor Snowden as a hero in the cause of privacy who has “courageously” exposed NSA telephone surveillance. The mantra of privacy, growing louder and ever more strident, threatens to emasculate the NSA to the point of incapacity to protect America from another 9-11.
This is madness. No matter how emotionally charged and sacrosanct privacy may be in the American psyche, when it comes to choice between safety and privacy, it is a no-brainer what we must choose: safety, because, dead, you have no use for privacy.
Am I pathetically or grotesquely simplistic, betraying my country of origin where its language doesn’t even have the word privacy? Google the premier bilingual dictionary, Korean-English-Korean, for the equivalents valiantly put forward: reclusion, retirement, private life, pu-ra-i-beo-si [transliteration of privacy], secrets, secrecy, in that order. This is also the case in Japanese, the language most closely related to Korean, and many others as it turns out: Chinese, Indonesian, Russian, and even West European languages like French and Italian. For example, Russian translates privacy as a compound of words meaning solitude, secrecy, and private life. Privacy with all its sanctity and aura is a uniquely Anglo-American obsession.
Not that we from deprived backgrounds can’t guess what it is all about: absence of a discrete unit word or lexeme does not mean absence of the substance it stands for, the desire of individuals to guard and hide from public curiosity personal information about themselves. Adam and Eve covered with fig leaves their nudity, that is, genitalia. Shyness about the pudenda seems pretty much universal, though there are notable exceptions, nudist colonies and aborigines, to prove the rule. Naturally shyness extends to activities entailed by the utilization of said genitalia, which includes not only the intercourse itself but also various auxiliary operations such as acquisition of an enclosed dwelling with a bed and bedding, linen, clothes, and other support facilities like the bathroom to wash up in, the kitchen to get fortified, etc.
As society becomes more organized and complex, an individual’s reputation in the community is as vital as material equipment for one’s sexual fulfillment, which therefore falls squarely under protective shyness, privacy. One shouldn’t be perceived as cheating on a mate or unreliable in business dealings, the auxiliaries. Created, perversely, to stray from the straight and narrow, humans must maintain a façade, if not reality, of respectability with privacy to the rescue, as the fig leaf, the Holy Grail. This reputation, the all-important maker or breaker of sex gratification in modern America, is at the heart of the outcry for privacy, rage and indignation at NSA phone surveillance, not physical invasion of anybody’s person, home, office, or other properties and effects.
According to a survey three quarters of the tapped conversations are totally innocuous, commercial solicitations, friends calling to say hello, a neighbor calling about a stray dog, a child calling home to be picked up from school, and so forth, and the parties wouldn’t care if the whole world listened in. But in the remaining quarter of the batch the communicators definitely care: they want nobody snooping in. Breaking down the content by subject matter, 85% deals with the main course, sex trysts, extramarital or otherwise unauthorized, and the rest with the auxiliaries or derivatives, 14% get-rich-quick schemes, unethical or criminal, 0.99% drug deals, and 0.01% terrorist plots, the target of NSA interest.
Not surprisingly we have a vocal minority, the culpable 25% drowning out the silent 75% majority. But even this group should come to their senses, stop yelling for privacy, and instead hurrah for the NSA to go on with its work and root out that 0.00025% terroristic vermin. Otherwise, those folk in the 85% of the 25% dashing out the door after hanging up may get blown up on the way and never make it to their place of assignation. Typically for them there is no criminal or civil penalty involved and the NSA is unlikely to leak to the press to cause embarrassment. Even the 14% economic offenders, their mind set to achieve wealth and sleep with 72 virgins while still on this side of heaven, should endorse the NSA cause because they need to live to enjoy the fruits of their ill-gotten money, with which they can also hire lawyers to get them off the hook by making the phone evidence inadmissible for lack of a warrant or other technicality. Similarly with drug dealers, who must live first to enjoy the high and then hire a lawyer.
So rise up, America, the silent majority, shout down and straighten out those misguided disciples of privacy, and make this country safe from sea to shining sea!