October 17, 2018

Sony ‘R’ Us

The most shocking thing about the digital disemboweling of “>40 gigabytes of private email, employee evaluations, “>confessed to Politico, “All the old, crass stereotypes about race and genitalia size thrived on our secure government radio channels.”

It would not be farfetched to assume a comparable nakedness of our emails and texts, our photos and finances, our locations and contact lists, our browsing and phone calls.  There has been much public discussion about what privacy rights we should have online, what terms-of-service transparency a social media, e-commerce or any other site must provide.  But I can’t help thinking that all the privacy policies in the world won’t be able to prevent a determined tyrant, crook, sociopath or teenager from making the Sony data dump a demoralizingly common occurrence.  And looming beyond that industrial crime, of course, is a far darker digital terrorism capable of bringing down power grids, financial markets, transportation systems and military defenses – the “>misquoted as saying that young people no longer care about the norm of privacy the way previous generations did. What “>dissing Angelina Jolie as a brat.  Yes, it’s infuriating when the financial and medical confidentiality of thousands of Sony employees is violated by cyberthugs.  But what’s most sobering is that the plausible nightmare of having our private words exposed will drive our democratic society to pre-emptive self-censorship, hustling us, without a shot being fired, toward the tyranny of Pyongyang.

Marty Kaplan is the Norman Lear professor of entertainment, media and society at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.  Reach him at martyk@jewishjournal.com.