TBA: Surveillance

Thinking Biblically About... Surveillance

TBA Surveillance booklet coverYou are being watched. Almost everything you do online is tracked. Your personal details, web searches and browsing history are routinely collected. Emails, mobile phone calls and text messages are monitored, your social networking habits retained, your transactions logged. Your physical location is easy to determine thanks to smartphones with built-in GPS.

Governments and corporations harvest huge amounts of information, building up detailed profiles about us for a range of purposes. Some people are concerned about mass surveillance, believing it to be a dangerous breach of privacy. Others accept it as justified and reasonable. Others still may be uncomfortable about it, but believe there is little they can do.

For Christians, are there biblical principles that can help inform our response to issues of privacy and mass surveillance?

It can be easy to think that the Bible, written thousands of years ago for a very different culture, has nothing to say to the problems of a highly-connected and technologically advanced society. This new pamphlet in our TBA (Thinking Biblically About...) series explores the insights that the Bible offers for questions of privacy and surveillance, by government and corporations as well as hackers.

The Bible is wary of centralised power of any form, whether political, financial or technological. The Israelites had experienced the abuses of concentrated and unaccountable power in Egypt, and on other occasions throughout their history. By its very nature, any nation or organisation capable of mass surveillage represents a concentration of power that the Bible views as dangerous. As Christians, we are called to 'Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's', but it is not always easy to know where to draw the line. However, for Christians, surveillance isn't primarily a matter of technology, it is one of freedom.

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