The fight over privacy continues to roil countries around the world.
In India, the issue is driven by social media. Last Friday, looting and rioting took place in Sangareddy, a town near Hyderabad in India’s tech-savvy Andra Pradesh region, after an unnamed person reportedly posted a “provocative’ photograph of a place of worship” on Facebook, according to The Hindustan Times. The paper said rioters torched 40 shops and a number of vehicles, including a police car, and looted other shops. The Indian police have imposed a curfew in the town.
This “Facebook riot” was not the first time social media have caused disruption in India. The country’s high court is considering a case against 21 firms accused of posting “objectionable” content, including Facebook, Google and Microsoft. (Yesterday a judge excused Microsoft India from the case.)
A reason to write letters
Meanwhile, the United Kingdom wants to give police the right to monitor cell phone calls, emails, texts and website visits without having to obtain a warrant. This stunning expansion of state powers would still need to go through Parliament, the BBC reported.
The previous Labour government failed in its efforts to pass such a bill, so there’s no guarantee that the Tories will succeed. But that it’s being discussed probably means David Cameron and his government should become reacquainted with Winston Smith, Emmanuel Goldstein and other characters in “1984,” written by their countryman Eric Blair (George Orwell was a pen name).
And in the United States, a different kind of surveillance: the U.S. Supreme Court just ruled in a 5-4 decision that it was legal to strip search people in jail, even for minor offenses like a noisy muffler.
States can opt to adopt less intrusive laws, and the court’s majority attempted to limit situations to actual prisoners. But one has to wonder: wouldn’t it be more efficient to subject prisoners to the same kind of full-body scan air travelers endure? It might be the only time those scanners offer people a way to preserve their dignity.