Loss of Privacy: Marshall McLuhan’s Warnings

03Jun14

big-data-eye

This is from a Letter to the Editor to one of the local newspapers:-

Heed McLuhan’s warnings

Re: Snowden: The gift that keeps on giving, May 24

With all the recent articles about CSEC and the NSA, I can no longer smugly blame the present day government(s) for this surveillance mess we’re in. While poking through Marshall McLuhan’s letters recently I found these revelations.

On April 14, 1969, McLuhan wrote to Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau: “Under electric conditions there can be no privacy. The privacy invaders are the bulwark of the new knowledge industries, from the pollsters, to the insurance companies, and the credit ratings, ‘the eye in the sky,’ the age of the ‘snoop’.”

Then on March 2, 1970, McLuhan wrote the following to the Office of the Prime Minister: “Any conventional bureaucracy becomes a police state when speeded up by a new technology such as telephone or telex.”

To illustrate his point McLuhan used the example of the conventional car “speeded up” giving rise to “the extreme instance of police state” via “helicopters and computers.”

On March 23, 1967, McLuhan wrote to his good friend John Wain [Oxford U scholar & author] about the effects of his own increasing public exposure: “When you go into the public domain by the media route everybody develops the illusion that they own you. They resent even slight efforts at privacy.”

In the near half century since McLuhan’s observations, human interaction has “speeded up,” rendering old-fashioned socializing and dating obsolete. We now find ourselves eagerly executing online surveillance of each other.

Perhaps we should all slow down and privately reflect on these ideas for a moment. Is that possible in this day and age? (Source: http://tinyurl.com/qevu6cr )

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