Monday, June 23, 2014

Who Knows What about Me?

I still maintain my print subscription to The New York Review. It is one of only two such subscriptions. (The other is to Consumer Reports due to a lifetime membership as a result of a donation I have many years ago.) I also track the RSS feed for The New York Review, this alerts me to both blog posts and article in the next issue that I have not yet received. I usually gloss over the latter; but I could not resist a "sneak preview" peek at Sue Halpern's "Partial Disclosure" about Edward Snowden and the consequences (including recently published books) of his actions.

Like just about everything I have read by Halpern, this was a well-written and deeply-thought piece. In other words it was representative of why I continue to read The New York Review. However, the end of it left me with an uneasy feeling about the whole issue of intrusiveness she was discussing. There are any number of ways that my government knows about my subscription. Nevertheless, because I receive it in physical form, I am relatively confident that what I read in it is my own business. On the other hand the government probably knows by now that I clicked on the URL for her article (which I reproduced in the above hyperlink for those willing to feel adventurous)!

I am reminded of what happened when the Internet came to Singapore, since I was living there at the time. A few months after Singapore had set up its own Internet Service Provider, everyone with a .sg electronic mail address received a message about pornography on the Internet. The message basically said that the technical crew was still working on the best way to block such content but, at the present time, it was not being blocked. It advised all readers to maintain the honor system in such matters but then closed with the sinister statement directed that those not willing to voluntarily filter their Internet activities: We know who you are!

I have not tried to hide from my government who I am or what my opinions are. For now, at least, I do not feel at risk. I just wonder when certain instincts for self-censorship may kick in and whether I will be aware of them when they do so.

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