Article 12


23 Monday 23rd May 2011

So what was the inspiration for this film?

The years I worked as an IT consultant gave me a deeper and better understanding of the vulnerabilities of the computer world and the scope for surveillance; this is something that in the computer world comes almost naturally – everything is programmed in such a way that it will always leave a trace.  Furthermore, it is a current topic, which, I think, will give us material for thinking a long time from now, just as we are currently dealing with the stories about the Apple iPhone and Google Android tracking devices that record the users' every day activities and send that information to tertiary companies. Or with the massive data breach that Sony Playstation are facing: millions of people affected – names, surnames, addresses, credit card details all disclosed. This is not necessarily a new thing, but it has now become public. Therefore, thinking about the effects of surveillance and the powers behind it, together with my desire to raise awareness and eventually initiate social change, all this ultimately motivated me to go ahead and make this movie.

What does privacy mean to you? Can you think of a time where your privacy has been violated?

As an Argentinean, I remember the times we were under military prosecution and when the right to privacy was systematically violated resulting in the large-scale erosion of personal liberties and ultimately, to mass victimisations, persecutions and deaths. This had a huge impact on me, as I was just a young boy - it gave me a sense of the extent to which governments can intrude into people’s lives, but it also gave me a sense of the importance of privacy. I can give you one example: I remember my mother and grandmother hiding all my father’s books because it was thought their content was against the military ideology and that endangered our whole family. As a consequence, the first thing that comes to my mind when I think about privacy is everything.

How did you get people like Noam Chomsky involved in the project?

I initially made a list of people I would like to interview and whose opinions I considered relevant for this topic and then simply contacted them. I was lucky enough as well as honoured to have received a quick and positive answer from Noam Chomsky and everybody else.

Noam Chomsky

Your documentary highlights many of the Orwellian ways authorities and businesses are already infringing on our right to privacy, do you think people are aware of just how much they are under surveillance? 

I don’t think people realize how much they are being watched, but what is beneficial today is that there is more information available for the general public. I could say there is a movement documenting and helping raising awareness, which, I think, inevitably brings about a state of concern. On the other hand, we are dealing with the Facebook phenomenon that is people willingly disclosing private and intimate details about their lives. In this sense, I feel that there is some sort of reversal in values – what used to be private in the past is no longer valid today. Or it may be the result of the competitive society – the idea that if you put yourself out there, you are most likely to be noticed – a distorted idea of transparency.

Does our awareness of these types of practices need to be increased? What has the response been from those who have watched your film, do you feel your documentary is helping your cause? 

I think the documentary is helping the cause and is yet another tool to raise awareness. At the end of the day, I made this movie to draw attention to the topic. People who have watched it, left the cinema with mainly two feelings – they were both alerted and concerned about the effects of the surveillance society and hopeful that one can still keep the right to privacy unharmed or at least fight for it.

Do you think people are too willing to agree to new privacy/surveillance laws or acts? Is it because they don’t understand what they really mean? Or do you worry that people just don’t care?

I think we are dealing with what Orwell was calling ‘double speech’, where companies and governments preach one thing and act partially or completely against that which was said. It is difficult to understand when one law is for or against a cause, for or against our human rights, because, as Brian Eno says on the film, most bills are passed in times when the public attention is turned in another direction. This is what happened in China during the Olympics – they brought the most sophisticated surveillance systems and they are still in place today because it is more expensive to remove them than keep them. And this is what will happen to London in 2012. In brief, to answer your question, I think it is a mixture of both –lack of knowledge and indifference.

Where do you feel the line is with regards to our privacy? What’s too far? Would there be a way back once crossed?

I think the line is there where one decides. Of course, we cannot do much about being watched by a myriad network of CCTVs on the street, or having our movement tracked by monitoring our Oyster cards because there is a direct relation between technology advancements and privacy. In this respect, there is no way back – as science progresses, we become more exposed. There should however be a more comprehensive approach with regards to including privacy-enhancing tools within the framework of the current laws. But what we can control is the amount of information we deliberately give away about ourselves.

At the current rate modern technology is already infringing in our lives and with the ever increasing advancements, do you fear that one day we will have to fight for the right to keep Article 12?

We are already fighting, there is a growing movement of people all over the world and this is one of the messages of the film.

Go to the documentary's official website for more information. And for details about what other film's are showing at this year's London International Documenary Festival click here.

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