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  • Oct 26, 2014
  • Updated: 1:05am
My Take
PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 November, 2013, 5:21am
UPDATED : Monday, 04 November, 2013, 5:21am

The hypocrisy of Big Brother parents

I have an ongoing debate over pervasive American electronic surveillance with an American-Israeli friend who is also a Hong Kong permanent resident. He is all gung-ho over the absolute need - indeed, complete legitimacy - of such surveillance, which we now know not only targets foreign terrorist suspects, but random US citizens, US allies and their own citizens as well.

My friend is in a unique position to understand these things because he was in the Israeli military in his younger days, and was trained in, of all things, signals intelligence and interception. Despite denial, I have often wondered if he wasn't a Mossad agent, a tantalising mystery to our acquaintance. He has lived a long time in all three places of which he is a citizen or resident - and also the mainland - so he understands their domestic politics as well.

Given his background, I completely dismissed his arguments. However, I am having second thoughts after reading how parents spy on their children's online activities. If you can do it to your kids, why can't Big Brother do it to you?

Yes you can, even if you are an IT moron. For just US$99, you can download a fully automatic spyware programme from a US website that can monitor your kids down to single keystrokes and send instant reports to your computer. But, should you do it as a parent? My wife and I high-fived each other when I told her about the spyware; no second thoughts or hesitation there! If you spy on your kids for their own good, how can you condemn a government for spying on its citizens and others - for their own protection? Would it not be morally inconsistent?

Of course, a parent may be less abusive of his monitoring power than a government. But that's an argument for restraint and responsibility, not against surveillance per se.

I don't think there is a definitive answer for or against state surveillance. But you can at least take a stand that is morally consistent - as parent and citizen. If you think your children deserve their own space and privacy, then you would probably be inclined to oppose obtrusive and pervasive government surveillance.

But if you spy on your kids without hesitation, you probably have no moral ground to condemn governments for doing it either.

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12

This article is now closed to comments

ngsw
It is OK if the kids are told they are spied. Fair,isn’t it? And they will outsmart you, Mr. Lo.
snelderj
Alex, u do usually make a lot of sense but certainly not this time. the argument for what u do to other adults should extend to your children is bogus. children can argue why they cant have alcohol, drive a car or carry a gun for the same argument, there is something call parenting though I think we have a common understanding after a certain age, alcohol, driving or even carrying a gun is ok. parents do this to protect their children, before their frontal lobe is fully developed to exercise self control and logical thinking, after a commonly agreed age say 18 or 21 depending on the country, I do think it's beyond the parent.
dascaldasf
AL is a hypocrite?
321manu
Did Mr. Lo just compare parental supervision of a minor with government monitoring of non-consenting adults? Wow. So if I give my kid a "time-out" and send them to their room, have I just stipulated that "black jails" are ok in principle?
pslhk
Serious problems in AL’s opinion
that mistakes parents-children relationship
as analogous to state-citizens relationship
-
Espionage begins where normal communication ends
if there is a desire to gain illegitimate advantages
or a need to prevent misdemeanor
Who’s to decide legitimacy and proper behavior?
-
Declaration of interest must accompany
AL’s future comments on local education
tennisboy
Tough day at the office, hey Alex? Writer's block is understandable.
Byebye
I am thinking of getting a new iPad Air. My biological parents are gone, I wonder if I can ask new daddy CY Leung for one as my Christmas gift?
Decentralist
It is just way past my understanding how anyone can equate rights of a relationship between adults to that of parents and kids. While only tragically insecure parents would spy on their kids, just imagine if the situation was reversed. If a kid gets caught using spyware to monitor his/her parents I am fairly sure that the chance of men in uniform carrying guns sent to incarcerate the subject for years would be a highly unlikely response.
wwong888
you should really stop smoking crack before you write your column alex... its getting pretty obvious you are totally mashed up when you come up with your drivel barely worthy of a primary school homework assignment
johnyuan
1. AL missed his coffee this morning, almost. Understandably so when being a parent like AL must decide if to snoop on his children. The issue about the moral ground in spying by US government on its citizens and friends by linking with parents on their children has complicated and muddied all the players in today’s My Take. Life can really be simpler even in the world of snooping and spying.
.
Parents have the right to snoop on their children on social medium. The information therein on the Facebook and the like when is put in a public domain is not like someone is snooping a diary. It’s up to the kid what to withhold from parents in using the social medium. Conversely, parents look really silly and irresponsible what the public knows but they don’t of a misdeed or intended misdeed.

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