International & Global Education
Delicate Balance: The Interplay Between Safety, DEIJ Initiatives, and the Erosion of Personal Privacy
In contemporary governance, an unprecedented emphasis on safety and diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice (DEIJ) has become a hallmark of public policy. This essay aims to unravel the paradoxical consequence accompanying these well-intentioned initiatives—the gradual erosion of personal privacy. While governments, organizations, and institutions globally focus on fostering a more secure and equitable society, this pursuit inadvertently poses challenges to individual privacy. This essay examines the intricate interplay between governmental efforts towards safety and DEIJ and their unintended consequences on personal privacy.
DEIJ and Personal Information
A discernible trend in data collection is the shift from traditional demographic inquiries to more nuanced questions in the name of DEIJ. Governments and institutions, ostensibly pursuing social justice, now delve into personal details that were once deemed private. For instance, the transition from asking about gender to inquiring about sexual orientation reflects a commendable pursuit of inclusivity. However, this trend raises legitimate concerns about the extent to which individuals should disclose their personal lives to external entities.
In the pursuit of diversity, a thin line separates the promotion of inclusivity from the invasion of personal privacy. While understanding and acknowledging diverse identities are essential, the intrusive nature of some inquiries may compromise an individual's right to keep certain aspects of their identity confidential. Striking a balance between fostering an inclusive environment and respecting personal boundaries is crucial to prevent unintended consequences.
Safety Measures and Surveillance
Governments globally have heightened their focus on safety, implementing measures such as increased surveillance through city cameras and the establishment of national identification systems. Although these endeavors aim to enhance public safety and security, the collateral effect is an escalation in the level of monitoring citizens endure in their daily lives.
City surveillance cameras, ostensibly installed to deter criminal activities, inadvertently infringe upon the privacy of law-abiding citizens. The omnipresence of surveillance technology raises concerns about the constant observation and recording of individuals' activities, potentially leading to a society where every move is scrutinized. Furthermore, national identification systems, like Japan's 'My Number,' originally introduced for administrative purposes, can easily be repurposed as tools for extensive citizen monitoring.
Some Examples Worth Considering
1. Employment and Diversity Data Collection:
In addition to government initiatives, corporations are increasingly delving into personal details to showcase their commitment to diversity. Job applicants are now often required to disclose personal information, such as ethnicity, sexual orientation, and disability status. While the intention is to track diversity metrics and promote inclusive hiring practices, this practice raises concerns about the potential misuse of such sensitive information and its impact on an individual's employment prospects.
2. Health Surveillance and Contact Tracing:
In the wake of global health crises, governments have implemented extensive health surveillance measures, including contact tracing apps and monitoring systems. While these tools aim to control the spread of diseases, they also involve the collection of personal health data. The challenge arises in ensuring that such data is used exclusively for public health purposes and does not become a tool for unwarranted surveillance or the violation of medical privacy.
3. Educational Institutions and Student Information:
In the education sector, institutions are increasingly collecting comprehensive data on students to address diversity and equity concerns. This may include information about students' socioeconomic background, family structure, and cultural identity. While the goal is to tailor educational programs to diverse needs, the extensive collection of such data raises questions about the potential stigmatization of certain groups and the long-term implications for student privacy.
4. Social Media and Government Collaboration:
Governments are actively exploring collaborations with social media platforms to monitor public sentiment and identify potential threats. While this is framed as a measure to ensure public safety, it raises significant privacy concerns. The sharing of data between social media companies and governments can result in the surveillance of individuals based on their online activities, blurring the line between public security and unwarranted intrusion into personal lives. The funds tunnelled into social media giants during the 2008 financial crisis have gone unquestioned and yet what has emerged is the domination of this area by both the USA and China - why has nowhere else in the world managed to offer alternative platforms with potentially a different world order view?
5. Smart City Initiatives and IoT Devices:
Cities worldwide are embracing smart technologies, integrating Internet of Things (IoT) devices for efficient governance. However, these devices, ranging from smart streetlights to intelligent traffic systems, often involve extensive data collection. While the goal is to enhance urban living, the mass surveillance inherent in these technologies poses risks to individual privacy. Striking a balance between smart city innovation and safeguarding personal information becomes imperative in this evolving landscape. While the WHO meets to discuss need safety measures and many governments send ministers to attend these meetings, why is it so hard to find out who these 'public' servants actually are? Arguably the idea of public service has been flipped on its head with the public servant entitle to enhanced privacy as their 'bosses', the public have their privacy legislated away under the guise of safety and DEIJ?
The examples provided underscore the diverse ways in which personal privacy is being impacted by safety and DEIJ initiatives across various sectors. As society grapples with these challenges, policymakers must navigate a complex terrain, ensuring that the pursuit of safety and inclusivity is accompanied by robust safeguards to protect individual privacy rights. Balancing the collective good with individual freedoms is a nuanced task that requires continual scrutiny and refinement of policies in this rapidly evolving technological and social landscape. Striking a delicate balance between the commendable goals of safety, diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice and the preservation of personal privacy remains an ongoing challenge for contemporary governance. Indeed who is watching the watcher?
Okinawan and Japanese Budo
James M. Hatch
International Educator who happens to be passionate about Chito Ryu Karate. Born in Ireland, educated in Canada, matured in Japan