The duality of surveillance and privacy

The importance of being in the middle, a newsletter I love, NFTs, and on safe spaces

Hi friend,

Wanted to start doing a series on dualities to help us all think more critically about the complexities of our world.

Most of our lives exist within systems that run on dualities - concepts that push and pull with one another. Yin and Yang, up and down, life and death, and much of what we want to achieve, especially in social justice reform, is ultimately finding equilibrium.

Just recently, NYPD had installed 200 more surveillance cameras to address the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes here in NYC, and as you may have guessed, not everyone agrees on this topic.

On one side, you have the invasion of privacy and increased criminalization of marginalized communities. On the other, pleading for more security and protection for the Asian community, especially Asian elders.

Concerns of both sides are absolutely correct, and the way forward is to navigate within the center of surveillance and privacy.

On Surveillance 👀

In the past decade, the accessibility of consumer surveillance technology has radically transformed the way we hold one another accountable. Cell phones, automobile dash cams, and home surveillance systems have provided individual citizens the ability to capture a moment in time to prove innocence or guilt.

Much of our latest social justice movements have been dependent on these recordings. Without them, these cases would have been unfortunately ignored or forgotten.

The power of a single clip of video, audio, or even image could change the course of history.

However, these technologies are still not afforded to everyone just yet. Physical, mental, or economic roadblocks (most of these technologies require a monthly payment for cloud storage) prevent these tools from being accessed by vulnerable populations. Until surveillance becomes a public necessity, some of our most handicapped will continue to suffer the attacks and injustices that never make it to our social media feeds.

Whether we’d like to believe it or not, surveillance can protect and create a more transparent society when deployed as a public service.

Vision: a third-party, public entity surveillance system installed in public lamposts, activated via voice, touch, or Bluetooth to record within a 25 ft radius by any victim or witness.

In the case of surveillance by NYPD, while in good faith, the systems must also be fully transparent for it to serve the public. Recordings must be immediately accessible by the community, and there should be documentation on how the cameras are used and by whom. Otherwise, these tools simply become toys for private entities to do as they wish.

On Privacy 🙈

Everyone should be afforded the right to privacy within their own space to recharge, find refuge, and conduct their own necessities. During our time alone, we have the opportunity to become introspective and conduct the self-work needed to become better citizens in this global network.

But technology has seeped its way to every part of our lives.

Thousands of private corporations are directly or indirectly accessing our information every minute of the day. From the details on our phones to the metrics on our smart watches, our most intimate data is sold to companies all around the world at a premium we will never see. With the rapidly declining cost of storing data, companies are able to back up our entire lifetime without breaking their bank.

Imagine: a shell of ourselves constructed by all of our data will continue to serve the corporate masters that had paid for it, forever providing insights and research beyond our existence.

Personal privacy is fundamental human right that we must preserve, regardless of innovation.

And so we are back to the duality of surveillance & privacy, transparency & security. Because we co-exist with others, we must suspend ourselves in the center of this duality.

Although there is no single right answer, we must wary of those who push us toward the extremes. And what we give up in either privacy or surveillance must be for the betterment of the other end, rather than benefiting a single individual, corporation, or group.


What I’m up to

Clubhouse (for all): Sunday, March 14 w/ Dalia Kinsey “Living Queer & Melanated” (add me @wakuu and I’ll ping you in)

Clubhouse: Thursday, March 18 “Sharing the Invisibilized Asian American Experience in Tech/Media”

For queer Asians: Sunday, March 21 - Yellow Glitter Sparkes, Gaysian support group

For Asians: Sunday, March 28 - Asian American Healing Space

For queer POC: Tuesday, April 13 - Design Bootcamp: from inspiration to design, how to improve your ideation, collaboration, and time management

Speaking @ New Jersey Institute of Technology: March 31 - Being LGBTQ+ in Tech

Speaking @ University of Washington: April 10 - Designing for Equity


A newsletter I love

Zeynep Tufekci writes a thoughtful and deep newsletter called Insight that I highly recommend. Zeynep had written about COVID-19, mask mandates, and vaccination issues way before it hit mainstream news, and offers timely advice admist the crazy times that we are in.

NFT or not to be

NFT or non-fungible token is a digital item that is created and authenticated using blockchain technology. You may have heard in the news that recently, an NFT was auctioned at Christie’s for $69.3M and Banksy’s art was burned to mint it as an NFT.

I am extremely bullish on the blockchain technology, but I have a feeling that the fiat currency is a bit over-inflated at the moment (Seth Godin: NFTs are a dangerous trap). Imagine being at the forefront of Web 2.0 and people are throwing tons of money at it (dot com bubble). As technology improves, we will quickly see winners and losers… and a burst of the fantasy before us.

Safe spaces

A really insightful post on articulating the necessity for creating safe, closed spaces for marginalized communities in yoga. (and all other spaces as well!)

A post shared by GaneshSpace (@ganeshspace)

As always, thanks for reading!

P.S. If you enjoyed this, share or sign up here: mindfulmoments.substack.com

Anything else? You can always hit "reply" to email me directly. 💌

Have a beautiful day!

Metta (loving-kindness),
Steven

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