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The music of privacy John Edwards
23 January 2015

music edit

Our work doesn’t have to all be hard slog - especially at this time of the year, and nor do our blog posts. I thought I’d take a lead from Public Address and give a Friday post over to music that can loosely be linked to a privacy theme.

I had a go at this with my favourite media outing to date, Playing Favourites with Kim Hill, although for copyright reasons that audio doesn’t play the tracks. So I thought I’d add a couple. If you’ve got something you think we’d like, add it in the comments field below.

PJ Harvey is one of my favourite artists, and this song says nothing at all about privacy explicitly but I love its selective revelation. Like the supposed “oversharing youth of today” who apparently don’t care about privacy, PJ narrates a seemingly intimate tale but leaves out one critical piece of information. “You said something, I’ve never forgotten” goes the song - but she never reveals what it was. That she keeps to herself.

 

More directly on point is Shihad’s blistering FVEY which refers to the Five Eyes intelligence network of which New Zealand’s GCSB is a part. The world’s attention focused on the surveillance activities of the NSA and its partner agencies in the wake of the Edward Snowden’s revelations. While I can’t agree with all the lyrics (“the days of privacy are dead”), the song is something of a rallying call for people to think about, and care about, the role of intelligence and surveillance in a liberal democracy. It feels very relevant because my Office has an important role in answering some of the questions raised in the song.

I also asked my staff if anything in their playlists resonated with their work. Here are some of their picks.

BS suggested Jimmy Somerville, one of the founders of 1980s bands, Bronski Beat and The Communards. Somerville was openly gay during a period of increasing conflict over gay rights. Many of his songs featured stories of victimisation and the group’s first hit, Small Town Boy, recounts an all too familiar tale of a young man revealed as gay cast out by his family and standing alone on the train platform “with everything you own in a little black case”. Leaving for the big city is a classic route to seek privacy.

DG’s pick is #Selfie by The Chainsmokers, a light hearted observation of why people take them. Moments previously observed only by those in the immediate vicinity are now captured and shared widely with sometimes alarming consequences.

“But first, let me take a selfie. Can you guys help me pick a filter? I don't know if I should go with XX Pro or Valencia. I wanna look tan. What should my caption be? I want it to be clever. How about "Livin' with my b*****s, hash tag LIVE"? I only got 10 likes in the last 5 minutes. Do you think I should take it down? Let me take another selfie. Wait, pause, Jason just liked my selfie. What a creep … Oh my God, Jason just texted me. Should I go home with him? I guess I took a good selfie. Selfie, selfie, selfie, selfie, selfie, selfie, selfie, selfie. Let me take a selfie.”

TH’s choice is Taylor Swift’s Blank Space. The song is written from the perspective of the apparently ‘boy-crazy’ singer, as she has been portrayed by tabloid newspapers. Swift acknowledges the power these perceptions have and has fun running with it.

In a world where Google is using its algorithms to create moments that never exist, retaining control of how we’re perceived is an uphill slog. With all those tiny points of data - those status updates, the photos you’re tagged in – they’re building a model of you. Are we happy with being who they say we are?

BW selected Every Breath You Take by The Police and noted that in 1983, Sting had much more limited means to watch every move you made. If the song was released today, the lyrics could be amended as follows and people would have immediately recognised Sting for a stalker.

“Every Snapchat you take, every move you make (according to your phone’s location tracking), every bond you break (by unfriending someone on Facebook), every step you tweet you send, I'll be watching you. Every single day, every word you say (on social media), every game you play (online), every night you stay (logged in at home), I'll be watching you.”

JH made her choice from the indie end of the music spectrum with Yo La Tengo’s Nothing to Hide. The grunge factor means you can’t decipher most of the lyrics but she loves the chorus.

“We all decide, we all like to draw the line. We've all got something to hide. We've all got something to hide.”

CM went with Bad Reputation by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. While Joan sings she doesn’t give a damn about her bad reputation, she really does because it has made her one of the most iconic women in rock. Reputations do matter and the song’s catchy chorus has become an anthem for misunderstood youth everywhere and featured in countless soundtracks.

Now it's your turn. Leave us a comment below and tell us what your favourite privacy-themed songs are.

(Image used under Creative Commons: Portrait of Charlie Parker, Tommy Potter, and Max Roach, Aug 1947)

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Comments

  • I'd go with one about the (in)effectivness of encryption in the long term. You Can't Keep Secrets From the Future

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BA6kG-tOkBs

    Lyrics: http://frontalot.com/index.php/?page=lyrics&lyricid=41

    Posted by Dave Bremer, 23/01/2015 10:04am (3 years ago)

    Post Reply

    The aim of the Office of Privacy Commissioner’s blog is to provide a space for people to interact with the content posted. We reserve the right to moderate all comments. We will not publish any content that is abusive, defamatory or is obviously commercial. We ask for your email address so that we can contact you if necessary to clarify your comment. Please be respectful of authors and others leaving comments.

  • Corey Hart - "Sunglasses At Night": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X2LTL8KgKv8

    Alans Parsons Project: "Eye in the Sky": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NNiie_zmSr8

    Posted by Kumara Republic, 23/01/2015 10:35am (3 years ago)

    Post Reply

    The aim of the Office of Privacy Commissioner’s blog is to provide a space for people to interact with the content posted. We reserve the right to moderate all comments. We will not publish any content that is abusive, defamatory or is obviously commercial. We ask for your email address so that we can contact you if necessary to clarify your comment. Please be respectful of authors and others leaving comments.

  • Almost forgot this one...

    Nik Kershaw - Cloak & Dagger

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3n6UK3rBMeE

    Posted by Kumara Republic, 23/01/2015 10:50am (3 years ago)

    Post Reply

    The aim of the Office of Privacy Commissioner’s blog is to provide a space for people to interact with the content posted. We reserve the right to moderate all comments. We will not publish any content that is abusive, defamatory or is obviously commercial. We ask for your email address so that we can contact you if necessary to clarify your comment. Please be respectful of authors and others leaving comments.

  • A travesty that the song of our generation, Facebook Official, wasn't included in the line-up!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m6w6jJJoBPk

    Posted by Rebekah Sherriff, 23/01/2015 11:36am (3 years ago)

    Post Reply

    The aim of the Office of Privacy Commissioner’s blog is to provide a space for people to interact with the content posted. We reserve the right to moderate all comments. We will not publish any content that is abusive, defamatory or is obviously commercial. We ask for your email address so that we can contact you if necessary to clarify your comment. Please be respectful of authors and others leaving comments.

  • I was thinking "the spy" by the Doors. It's supposed to be a love song , but I'm not sure Jim Morrison knowing that much about her is that romantic. She either overshares or he has inappropriate access to her information.
    Another one could be "none of your business" by salt-N-pepa.

    Posted by RS, 23/01/2015 11:42am (3 years ago)

    Post Reply

    The aim of the Office of Privacy Commissioner’s blog is to provide a space for people to interact with the content posted. We reserve the right to moderate all comments. We will not publish any content that is abusive, defamatory or is obviously commercial. We ask for your email address so that we can contact you if necessary to clarify your comment. Please be respectful of authors and others leaving comments.

  • I shall add in here 'Data Control' by Hüsker Dü from their 1982 album Land Speed Record.

    I first listened to this song in my late teens after the album had been out for about 4/5 years and was the first song that I can remember that explicitly explores privacy and big data themes - and despite the limitations of the technology in the lyrics - it still has some resonance to this day.

    As an internally rebellious teenager growing up in straight laced provincial New Zealand I used to shoutsing this song with great annoyance when playing it in my room.

    Youtube
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJuJHioUDPQ

    Lyrics
    http://songmeanings.com/songs/view/3530822107858655490/

    A nine digit number
    For every living soul
    That is all they talk about
    At Data Control
    They know everything about you
    Keeping secrets is too hard
    Your life is all recorded for you
    In holes punched in computer cards

    Data Control (digital readout)
    Data Control (perforated feed out)
    Data Control (microfilm files)
    Data Control (1984 style)

    A multinational corporation
    A stockholder's dream
    A nightmare of diversity
    A defense system so supreme
    Too technical to talk about
    Too complex for layman's brains
    It's enough to make you paranoid
    Or drive you crazy losers sane

    Posted by Blair Rogers, 23/01/2015 10:36pm (3 years ago)

    Post Reply

    The aim of the Office of Privacy Commissioner’s blog is to provide a space for people to interact with the content posted. We reserve the right to moderate all comments. We will not publish any content that is abusive, defamatory or is obviously commercial. We ask for your email address so that we can contact you if necessary to clarify your comment. Please be respectful of authors and others leaving comments.

  • My picks

    Hall & Oates - 'Private Eyes'
    '...The're watching you, They see your every move.'

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cCiPkazVzFA

    and the classic

    Dire Straits - 'Private Investigator'
    Interesting lines that resonates with the possible impacts of privacy breaches.
    'Treachery and treason - there's always an excuse for it'

    'Scarred for life - no compensation'

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IxS-ICzjO6I

    Posted by BJ, 26/01/2015 9:59am (3 years ago)

    Post Reply

    The aim of the Office of Privacy Commissioner’s blog is to provide a space for people to interact with the content posted. We reserve the right to moderate all comments. We will not publish any content that is abusive, defamatory or is obviously commercial. We ask for your email address so that we can contact you if necessary to clarify your comment. Please be respectful of authors and others leaving comments.

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