Computers, Privacy & the Constitution

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Tucuy Ricuy - Reloaded

The Inca Empire:

From 1438 to 1533, the Inca Empire was the most important and largest empire of America. Previous to the Spanish conquest, this empire, natively known as Tawantinsuyo, occupied territories that nowadays belong to Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, and Colombia. The leader of the Empire was the Inca, and he was also believed to be the son of their most important god, the sun. The Inca concentrated all the political, religious, and military powers. His voice was the law, and nothing could happen without his authorization. The Inca Empire was authoritative and socially divided. Rigid laws governed the Tawantinsuyo, and no local power could win a fight against them. In order to impose its power, the Empire had a strong militia compounded by brave warriors, who were feared all over the area. Additionally, the Inca had a special group of governmental officers called the Tukuy Ricuy.

The Tucuy Ricuy:

Tucuy Ricuy is the Quechua word for “the one who sees and hears everything”. The main role of these governmental officers was traveling undercover around the Empire in order to verify if the Inca’s rules were being applied and respected. Initially, they worked as spies, and tried to pass unnoticed. However, after finishing their supervising work, they identified themselves as public servants of the Inca. After that moment, they performed tax-collecting roles, delivered justice, and also were entitled to marry couples.

The Tucuy Ricuy’s role that the Tawantinsuyo’s citizens feared the most was when they delivered justice. They didn’t always judge people for evident felonies committed in the public eye, or duly proven after a fair procedure. Mostly, they sanctioned the people for situations that they supposedly saw or heard while they were performing their surveillance duties. The problem with this was that, most of the time, these situations were saw and heard out of context, and, hence, were interpreted in a wrong way. In fact, judicial decisions were constantly based in private conversations that were overheard, and even worst, misunderstood.

Although Tucuy Ricuy’s duties were effective from the point of view of the Inca, since they helped to maintain the order in the Tawantinsuyo, history remembers them as sneaky individuals that systematically violated people’s privacy and due process rights (not protected in that moment). Likewise, they sow a sense of suspicion and distrust in the Inca Empire’s communities, and made people feel permanently threatened and observed.

Former and contemporary forms of Surveillance:

History has showed us that, in order to have and keep control and power, empires and dictatorships have used surveillance as one of their main weapons. Whether by the use of spies, or by intercepting private communications, imperious governments have gone beyond the limits of privacy with the pretext of being protecting a higher interest: internal security. Certainly, these extreme measures might have been helpful in the fight against delinquency, but they have supposed the invasion of citizen’s personal lives. It have been said that, in some cases, surveillance goes beyond its formal purpose of ensuring peace and comfort for the common individual, and that it serves to a separate agenda of the government in power.

Evolution of telecommunications and rational apathy of users, have exposed most human being’s personal lives without being aware about it. The non-discretionary use of smartphones and social networks daily transfers to some (commonly unknown) database the most personal and private information of individuals. Although these may sound excessive and exaggerated, the truth is that this storage of information is made with the users’ consent since Terms and conditions of smartphone service providers and social networks warn customers about this situation.

Notwithstanding the aforementioned, a new way of unauthorized surveillance is beginning to be used without warning people about its implications: Smart Street Lights (“SSL”).

Smart Street Lights:

SSL are a product that aims to revolutionize the public lighting system. They are marketed as an invention that ensures a greener and more efficient provision of public illumination. SSL are merchandised as assets that guarantee energy saving by operating only when they are needed, having, as a consequence of that, an average life of 20 years. They don’t only illuminate, but also provide “real-time feedback” to central authorities about the conditions of the areas, the level of usage of the roads, and the current weather of the places in which SSL are located.

SSL have a sensor pack that, among other features, comes with a video and a voice-recording device. These gadgets are supposedly incorporated for security purposes; that is, for monitoring what happens in the surroundings. By these means, SSL can record activities and conversations that can be immediately heard by the correspondent authority so they can have a prompt reaction in case of any emergency. The problem with this is that, while searching for an illegality or for a delinquency act, SSL are permanently invading and recording citizen’s private life without their consent.

As Tucuy Ricuy in the Inca Empire, SSL have been design to be “the ones that see and hear everything”. They allegedly aim to be a mechanism that will ensure the enforcement of the law, and that will guarantee a peaceful cohabitation among neighbors. However, by doing so, they violate peoples’ privacy and due process in a period and location in which, differently to what happened in the Tawantinsuyo, those rights have to be respected.

As of today, democratic governments that apparently respect peoples’ human rights are using SSL. Maybe they are not aware about their implications, or maybe they are. Nevertheless, it is important to reveal the real consequences of operating this modern system of street lighting, and take measures against it. If not, these administrations may soon become dictatorships and authoritative regimes that will go beyond the permissible in order to “protect citizens” (if they are not already doing so).

Revision 2r2 - 30 Jun 2015 - 14:23:42 - MarkDrake
Revision 1r1 - 26 Apr 2015 - 21:41:32 - JoseEnriqueFrias
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