I am a computer security professional with a special interest in cryptography. I am also a deeply religious guy, with a strong affinity towards my beliefs. This article is to put out my views about privacy from a religious perspective.
Privacy in the World
There have been many privacy advocates spurring news stories about how it is a crime or should be a crime for government or other corporations to use the information that they collect about us in specific ways. They claim that it is unfair, a violation of our privacy, and some claim it is an intrusion into our emotional and psychological being.
Many, including Bruce Schneier, talk about "ephemeral communications". For example, if I whisper something to a friend, it only "stays around" for the length of time that the friend and I remember what I whispered. So the time where it is remembered is temporary, has limits, or in other words is ephemeral.
They claim that with the variety of recording mechanisms put into place to keep our digital world from losing important data (E-mail backups, ISP firewall logs, etc.) that "ephemeral communications" are dwindling. They usually acknowledge the fact that some of these are necessary to keep our digital world from collapsing in the event of natural disaster, equipment failure, or attack. However, they also oppose "purpose creep" where the initial application of the data being recorded is acceptable, but the follow-on applications are used to violate our privacy.
This is especially true for applications where the data being recorded includes more information than is necessary for the initial application.
Here is an example of an initial application: a casino uses security cameras to see if a casino customer is cheating at the casino games. They also record the video data for future review in case of a lawsuit. These recorded video images can then be saved for future identification of cheaters, so they can be escorted out of the premises before they can engage in cheating again.
Here is an example of a follow-on application: a local private investigator wants to review the video records of the casino to see if a client's husband took another woman into the hotel.
For the most part I agree with the lack of propriety with which governments and corporations use the information they collect about us. I do believe that governments and corporations need to protect the data that they collect so that people who would use the data can financially, or otherwise interfere with our lives.
However, I do not agree that we have any "ephemeral communications" at all. This is where the religious perspective comes into play.
A Religious Perspective
I firmly believe in an omniscient creator.
This in itself is reason to have faith in the statement in the Bible in Matthew 12:36:
36 But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.
If this is true then every conversation is not ephemeral. Every idle word is recorded and used in the future at the day of judgement.
The Bible goes even further Matthew 15:18-20 states:
18 But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.
19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:
20 These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.
This indicates that not only our words, but our thoughts are recorded as well. So our thoughts are not ephemeral.
All of our words and thoughts are recorded in Heaven. However, there is a method for the removal of those records.
The Bible states in Hebrews 10:16-17:
16 This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them;
17 And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.
After repentance (see Hebrews 10:10-17) the Lord remembers your sins no more.
Does this religious view endanger us?
Along with the omniscient creator, I believe firmly in the just and merciful creator. The Lord will never use the records of our words thoughts for anything than their stated purpose. If he did, he would lie and cease to be God.
Does this lack of ephemeral communication from a religious perspective make us have no privacy?
From the perspective of the omniscient creator, yes. From the perspective of those who would take advantage of our thoughts and communication for their own gain, no.
Should we abandon the pursuit of privacy because it is impossible to achieve from the omniscient creator?
There are still those who in this world will take advantage of our communication to hurt us or for their own advantage regardless of the impact to ourselves. So the pursuit of privacy is still a good thing.