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Globalisation Of Personal Space

It has become increasingly difficult for one to keep her/his personal information confidential, in the era of technological advancement. The daily activities of a person become public via cell phones or laptops, with internet connection. The phrase digital footprint, too, has become trivial, as people have started leaving digital impressions of each and every aspect of their lives everywhere through social media. Perhaps, it is the globalisation of personal space.

Apple CEO Timothy Donald Cook (b. November 1, 1960) recently made a significant comment on the impact of the loss of privacy. He stressed: “I fear deeply the loss of privacy. If we begin to feel like we’re being surveilled all the time, then our behaviour changes. We begin to do less. We begin to think about things less. You begin to modify how you think. In a world like that where you’re restraining yourself, (it) changes society in a major way.” He made the comment while speaking at the TIME100 Summit 2022 on June 7, 2022. Cook also said that he was “quite worried” about tech companies surveilling their users, as such an act could “change the way most humans behave and interact with each other”.

Interestingly, English Philosopher Jeremy Bentham (February 15, 1748 – June 6, 1832) had come out with his idea of Panopticon in the 18th Century. Panopticon is basically a type of institutional building and a system of control designed by Bentham, widely regarded as the founder of modern Utilitarianism. The concept of the design is to allow all prisoners of an institution to be observed by a single security guard, without the inmates being able to tell whether they are being watched. Although it is physically impossible for a single person to observe cells of all the inmates at once, the fact is that the inmates cannot know when they are being watched. Hence, they are motivated to act as though they are being watched at all times. Thus, the inmates are effectively compelled to regulate their own behaviour. Later in the 20th Century, French Philosopher Paul-Michel Foucault (October 15, 1926 – June 25, 1984) described how Bentham’s concept of Panopticon was applicable to Social Life. As far as modern digital surveillance is concerned, it has gone far beyond Bentham’s concept of Panopticon.

Even in the 21st Century, the perception of surveillance has a greater effect on the behaviour of an individual than the actual surveillance. One can easily blame individual habits for this discomfort and anxiety. Of course, it is the responsibility of an individual not to expose her/his personal space to the society. One should keep in mind that the digital world is not just a space where everybody can roam freely, as this world is under complete control of people in power… both commercial and state power.

The unimaginable stake of a handful of tech giants in the digital services market has taken this issue to an entirely new level, as every human behaviour is the raw material of business for these companies. They sell various products and services to people on the basis of their behavioural patterns. In this market, an individual is considered only as a potential buyer. Naturally, it is dangerous for the self-emancipation of a person.

The second level of danger is the contribution of the State. Modern States have started collecting personal information of people by using digital technology, and also (mis)using that information to serve their own vested interests in recent times. Tim Cook did not discuss this harsh reality at the TIME100 Summit 2022, and no one expects him to do so.

Now, people across the globe are waiting for the latest development in the digital world.

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