UK elections will be held in less than a month, while in the US, pols are gearing up for a year long sprint to the White House. Surveying the landscape one would have to conclude that events of the previous few years have not been kind to privacy advocates and activists. In the case of the US, the matter is particularly troubling because the Obama candidacy promised “the most transparent government in history.” Instead we’ve been subjected to the most prosecutions of whistle blowers and the most warrantless surveillance in history. So much for campaign promises.
In 2000, George W. Bush ran on a platform against the Clinton’s foreign interventionist administration, vowing not to entangle America in foreign conflicts
“If we don’t stop extending our troops all around the world in nation-building missions, then we’re going to have a serious problem coming down the road. And I’m going to prevent that.”
We know how that worked out! It is also very ironic that the Obama administration has run roughshod over an Internet industry when it was that same Internet, the same technology which catapulted him to the presidency. Today he continues to support policies and measures to strengthen surveillance and threaten privacy.
It is thus apparent that once candidates takes office they often forget the campaign promises that helped them get elected, so it is imperative to put the pressure on as early as possible. There is no more fertile soil for exercising power with candidates than during campaigns. Again acknowledging Obama’s technology prowess, he made a staple of customizing campaign information tailored to the interests of a growing constituency – the 18-29 year-old voter. He courted them with aplomb, using the Internet. That he let them down later is not the issue. What’s important to remember is that you are a powerful voice, and a politician is malleable and can be most easily swayed during their election campaign.
Therefore, this is an appeal – not only to the 18-29 year-olds and the “millennials” – but to all privacy loving citizens in the UK and the US to use your nation’s campaign seasons to effect change. That means getting candidates to focus on the erosion of freedoms which have taken place – drip by drip- over the past 20 years.
Remember, a politician is never more approachable than when running for office. When asked to contribute money, attach a proviso that you are contributing but want something in return. You want Internet privacy and communication freedom. Maybe, bit by bit, drip by drip we can regain the high ground in the privacy war.
If you are fortunate enough to have the franchise – exercise it. Vote in the UK elections in a few weeks and, in the US, get ready to make your voice heard on privacy issues.