Heidi Trautmann

Heidi Trautmann Column 48 - Let's talk about culture and....data hacking



Honestly, I prefer to talk about fairy tales and the good things in life, but things in life are not always good and it is no use to regretfully shake our heads and turn the page of our Saturday newspaper to something more cheerful. There is a lot of not so nice things happening all over the world, one of them is the phone-hacking scandal, invasion of privacy and things that are connected with it, be it facebook or other social networks.

Where to start? Is it a phenomenon of today? Secret Service is nothing new at all; it is as old as Methuselah. Political and industrial spies were sent travelling around the globe with the first explorers, knowledge about the other party was and is power. Many countries have therefore hesitated for centuries to open their doors to foreigners, especially in the Far East. Nepal, for example, have accepted tourism very late, only in the middle of last century.

Today the profession of spying is made easier, you can do it from your writing desk when you are a clever computer freak and know how to enter other people’s systems. Last century’s methods were to flirt with the secretary of a character in a high position, this is no longer necessary….or women spies were trained to draw secrets during tender meetings. Spicy stories. Today, the species of the ordinary spy is extinct; today’s spies have their fingers in other systems, no more love involved as secret door opener. Poor 007, what would he do today?

Politics is a dirty business, however, the citizens of a country expect their government to protect them from all harm, and how can they achieve this? They must know what the others have in mind, they all do it, they would be lost if they wouldn’t.  Reactionary tendencies and criminal activities can only be controlled when continually observed and that is today by telephone and internet surveillance and we must accept - if we want it or not – that private spheres are sometimes crossed. This is the one side of the medal.

The difference today is that a mutated kind of espionage has entered the lives of us citizens, the domain of private persons, data are broken into, stolen and used for advertising, worse: bank data are found out and bank accounts emptied; private telephone numbers are being used by others to make long distance calls. Tax evaders are found out and brought to court and - even worse - into the media.

All authorities,  others than police – are watching our steps. Sometimes for our protection, sometimes they go too far. Cases of transgression are reported daily in the international media but where should the lines be drawn. The latest news were about Mrs Merkel’s private mobile telephone. This is a breach of trust among friendly states.

There should be an international agreement in how far things are allowed to go. However, the definition of secret service it to know more than the other and I wonder how Obama will get out of this tight spot. There will be an exchange of excuses and business will continue as usual.


Let us now talk about the social networks: Whatever you are using, there is absolute transparency, so when you place a note into your network you must be aware that many people are reading it, not just your own circle of friends but the friends of your friends, it is like a gallery of mirrors, your message, your photos are reflected and are finally to be found in the Internet, publicly readable. By using a social network I accept that others read me and perhaps use me. So, what is the use, or let’s say the morale value, of a message if you don’t want it read; it is as if you were going into a public place naked shouting: Don’t you dare looking at me!

Let us be honest, most of the social network users want to share with the outside world, their art work, their poetry, their thoughts, their longings; they want to share their joy when something nice has happened but they also want to find sympathy when they are unhappy, and that is legitimate and often helpful to those who are lonely. Many of the users are placing their protest against something happening around our globe, often mind openers, but there are also those who have a dirty mind and want to hurt society. In acute danger are very young people who don’t know how to handle their confusion about growing up and place intimate photos in the internet or their mobile phones thus drawing the attention upon themselves of people out to abuse them.

It is often easier to entrust things to a machine than to say it openly to the person sitting opposite you; it is easier to create a letter and send it off via internet or mobile phone than to sit down and write a normal letter, put it in an envelope, take it to the post office, wait for a couple of days before you get a response. But, it is advisable to do it this way if you want to keep things secret, at least it should be safer. However, if authorities are set to get you, they will.

We do want a transparent society but that invites us to lead a clean life. However, there will always be characters in our society who in one form or the other live from the other people’s brain and efforts.


That is our dilemma, everything has several sides, the principle of contrasts, the black sheep among whites, the green fish among red ones.

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