Computers, Privacy & the Constitution
Public awareness of protecting one’s privacy

The speed of the fast-changing technology and the development of the current law system can hardly meet at the same time. Along the development of social network services (SNS), the concepts of protecting of privacy are becoming dramatically complex and hard to chase. Yet, it is our responsibility as citizens to protect our own privacy by being well aware of what rights we have thus speak for ourselves.

The last sentence shouldn't have passed proofreading.

Rising big brothers

In George Orwell’s novel, 1984, there is a mysterious dictator called “Big Brother” that exercises strong influence for its own good over the inhabitants where everyone is under complete surveillance by the authorities. The people are continuously reminded of this by the phrase “Big Brother is watching you.” Orwell’s insights into the future world characterized in his novel turns out to be true and accurate. Further, he must be one of the greatest prophets considering that “1984” was written in 1949.

Are you sure that you consider Nineteen Eighty-Four a work of prophecy? If it is, I would say it is not the prophecy that foretells the future, so much as that which reveals what is within the man. Like its imitator, Anthony Burgess's A Clockwork Orange, it is about the power of the state to reeducate through torture: a secular successor to the various narrative forms about Christian martyrdom.

Along with technological revolution since then, everyone is now seamlessly connected through the internet which also implies that it is extremely easy to monitor someone if a person decides to do so. Not to mention, SNS bring us a whole new way of communication by providing instantaneous and effective tools. However, these SNS are only beneficial when there are no concerns of protecting one’s privacy mainly under the Fourth Amendment. Though our means of communicating technology are amazingly evolved at high-speed, public awareness in protecting one’s privacy has not yet been matured at the same speed with a technology revolution.

What does this paragraph mean? Social networking services are only beneficial if privacy is protected against the State in particular? Is that true of any other forms of social networking we do, not using web-based services?

Government Surveillance of Civilians

It would be fun to read Orwell’s Big Brother only in a novel but not in the reality. However, there seem to be many instances of surveillance of civilian activities by different institutions including government. The Watergate Scandal occurred in the 1970s where the scandal eventually led to the resignation of Richard Nixon due to illicit surveillance, an attempted cover-up, and destruction of evidence. Among numerous similar examples, there is also a case called “South Korea Watergate.”

In 2008 of two private citizens; a businessman who had posted a video clip ridiculing Mr. Lee, and wife of a legislator from the government party were monitored by an ethics team from the prime minister’s office.

A reader can be forgiven for not knowing which Mr. Lee you mean.

In 2010, seven of the team’s members of an ethics team were convicted of having conducted illegal surveillance and of destroying computer files before prosecutors searched their office. The team was originally launched to investigate corruption among civil servants but it monitored public officials and civilians who directly or indirectly opposed the government. For instance, it kept records of a senior government official’s extramarital affair, even specifying the facial expressions of the man and the woman.

Though the U.S. and Korea Watergate scandals share similar notions that both attempted illicit surveillance and destruction of evidence, a businessman who did not have enough power to protect himself from the authorities turns out to be the most severely victimized person in the cases. He simply posted in his blog video clip published by others that lampooned President Lee as a rat in a fashion from the movie, Sicko originally produced by Michael Moore. Later, it was revealed that an ethic team threatened his boss to fire him and then it he was forced to resign his position at his work. He also had lost his means to support his family and accumulated debt. Until now, he had not been able to find out why he was singled out as a target.

Another incident occurred in South Korea was about a 30 year old unemployed male blogger was convicted of posting incorrect information online that he faced trial for pessimistic financial forecasts in 2009. Under the pseudonym Minerva, he was largely known for his accurate forecasts of sharp falls in Korea’s won currency, the national stock market, and the demise of US investment bank Lehman Brothers. Though he was found not guilty and released from prison after three months, he was emotionally scarred.

These are stories of abuse of prosecutorial power. Is that what Nineteen Eighty-Four is about for you? If not, why was the comparison useful, given all the space you allocated to making it?

In these stories of abuse of prosecutorial power, online surveillance is misused. But the important point about South Korean internet policy is that online surveillance is pervasively used, most of the time in ways that are considered uncontroversial in South Korea, but which would be unimaginable in any other highly-developed democracy. Hollywood has convinced the Korean government to engage in constant, direct, intrusive network surveillance designed to catch individual teenagers sharing movies. In no other "civilized" country in the world has such a proposal even been floated by Hollywood: it would rouse fatal levels of resistance everywhere immediately. But it was imposed on the Korean population without a murmur. No one even pays any attention, despite the hundreds of thousands of Korean teenagers who have been put through "reeducation" classes in copyright obedience in order to avoid prosecution for sharing.

Call for public awareness to better protect one’s privacy

Just like the U.S. Constitution, the Constitution of the Republic of Korea specifies people’s freedom of expression, right to be protected against unreasonable searches and seizures. Further, the cases are far different from Olmstead v. United States (1928) where the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 against the plaintiff and in favor of the government, holding that wire-tapping was not an unreasonable search and seizure within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment because of a conspiracy to violate the National Prohibition Act.

Even though these two civilians had not violated any law rather than posting a video clip and forecasting financial crisis, they had no choice but to face extremely harsh consequences. The fourth amendment protection and the right of privacy that the Constitution guarantees are barely seen in the cases.

Why would they be involved? The legal settings don't seem to give rise to particularly significant claims concerning search and seizure violations.

The government just played a role nothing more than the big brother in 1984. The authorities abused their power but were not fully responsible for what they had done.

It is neither about the technology that is evolving a minute by minute nor is it about the law that speaks for the power. It is about us. It is the public that should be aware of the rights it has to protect and fight for. As technology, the law, and the power may possibly have one voice at some point, we have to constantly promote public awareness into the importance of our rights of privacy in such a complicated environment. Lastly, Socrates’s famous phrase, “a law is law, however undesirable it may be,” is not what you are going to say when our privacy right is violated as it can happen to anyone.

I don't know where this "phrase from Socrates" comes from. All the sources seem to be Korean. I suppose it's from some Korean translation of Plato, but I don't know. I'd be grateful if you could help me find out.

For the reasons I give above, this conclusion seems to me rather peculiar, in view of the actual state of the evidence. You call on people (specifically, Korean people) to be more active in support of their privacy in the Net. But the illustrations you give are exceptional, and don't involve any digital civil liberties that ordinary people could assert. You don't discuss the ways in which Koreans live in a uniquely monitored and surveilled Net, or discuss how they might use the legal system to challenge that monitoring under the constitutional provisions you think should protect them.

If this were really an argument for Koreans to become activist on Internet privacy, I think it would be useful to head the discussion in those directions. But I don't know anyone who thinks such activism is likely in contemporary Korean society. Do you?


Webs Webs

r3 - 14 Jan 2015 - 22:44:39 - IanSullivan
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