Does Privacy Matter? The Other View

Syed Sharfuddin

(A phone rings in a room in a lighted building somewhere in a city in the middle of the night. The call is answered and a conversation follows).
Caller: Hello! Is this Gordon’s Pizza?
No sir, it’s Google’s Pizza.
Caller: Did I dial the wrong number?
No sir, Google bought the pizza company and its shops.
Caller: Oh, alright – then I’d like to place an order please.
Okay sir, do you want the usual?
Caller: The usual? You know what my usual is?
According to the caller ID sir, the last 15 times you’ve ordered a 12-slice with double-cheese, sausage, and thick crust.
Caller: Okay – that’s what I want this time too.
May I suggest that this time you order an 8-slice pizza with ricotta, arugula, and tomato instead?
Caller: No, I hate vegetables.
But your cholesterol is not good.
Caller: How do you know?
Through the subscribers’ guide. We have the results of your blood tests for the last 7 years.
Caller: Maybe so, but I don’t want the pizza you suggest – I already take medicine for high cholesterol.
But you haven’t taken the medicine regularly. 4 months ago you purchased from La Drug Network a box of only 30 tablets.
Caller: I bought more from another drugstore.
It’s not showing on your credit card sir.
Caller: I paid in cash.
But according to your bank statement you did not withdraw that much cash.
Caller: I have another source of cash.
This is not showing on your last tax form, unless you got it from an undeclared income source.
Caller: To hell with Pizza. Enough. I’m going to an island without internet, where there’s no ISP, no Wi-Fi signal and no one to spy on me.
I understand sir, but you’ll need to renew your Passport before you fly. Your passport expired 5 weeks ago.
Caller: I will complain to the authorities for intrusion of my privacy. What’s your name?
Sir I don’t have a name. I have a number – KV238509P.
Caller: Why do you have a number and not a name?
Sir I am an Android Robot programmed for Google Customer Services. I hold information about you, your family and friends from your loyalty cards and shared profiles, as well as from your FB, WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram, Amazon Prime, Tumbler, LinkedIn, YouTube, Vimeo, Snapchat, Google+, Skype, Viber, Sina Weibo, VKontakte, Pinterest, Reddit, Myspace, flicker and Flixter contacts. Did I miss anything in the list sir?
(There is a loud sound of the caller falling down on the floor. The phone line is active but there is no response. The Google Pizza android calls 911 and sends an ambulance to the caller’s home for A&E assistance).

The above is a short skit meant for light entertainment. But in reality it is a scary because it means everything we do or share by way of sending or receiving a medium or by entering a chatroom is uploaded from our location in the form of audio, video and data and is archived on some unknown server in cyberspace. What we are watching, buying, selling, sharing, ordering, saying and paying is all recorded with evidence. No one can deny that it is not true because we are seeing it happen in front of our own eyes. But when the prophets of Allah came to previous nations in their time in all corners of the world to warn them about the Day of Judgement when the deeds of the everyone will be brought before him/her in the form of a replay to account for them, those people did not believe these prophets. They ridiculed the apostles and rejected the divine message except those who understood it as the word of God and said “we heard and we obeyed”.

Until a few decades ago before YouTube and videos became a common household feature, this verse from the holy Quran was hard to visualise even though every single Muslim believed it the true word of God.
الْيَوْمَ نَخْتِمُ عَلَى أَفْوَاهِهِمْ وَتُكَلِّمُنَا أَيْدِيهِمْ وَتَشْهَدُ أَرْجُلُهُمْ بِمَا كَانُوا يَكْسِبُونَ
Translation: “On that Day (of Judgement), We shall set a seal over their mouths but their hands will speak to Us, and their feet will bear witness to what they used to do (when they were living)”. [Surah Ya’Seen 36:65].

حَتَّى إِذَا مَا جَاؤُوهَا شَهِدَ عَلَيْهِمْ سَمْعُهُمْ وَأَبْصَارُهُمْ وَجُلُودُهُمْ بِمَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ
وَقَالُوا لِجُلُودِهِمْ لِمَ شَهِدتُّمْ عَلَيْنَا قَالُوا أَنطَقَنَا اللَّهُ الَّذِي أَنطَقَ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ وَهُوَ خَلَقَكُمْ أَوَّلَ مَرَّةٍ وَإِلَيْهِ تُرْجَعُونَ
Translation: “Till, when they come close to it, their ears, their eyes and their skins will bear witness against them, speaking of what they were doing (on earth). And they will ask their skins: ‘Why did you bear witness against us?’ These will reply: ‘God, who gives speech to all things, has given speech to us (as well) for He has created you in the first instance, and unto Him you are (now) brought back.” [Surah Fussilat 41:20-21]

It is now an open secret that a complete record of most individuals is available on government and commercial servers and those who are left out of it are being brought into the net because of the rapid digitalisation of data about property records, educational data, passports, identity cards and bank accounts. It should not be hard now, in this day and age to accept that our information is also being constantly updated on the divine servers to be presented to us when we are brought before Allah on the day of Judgement. The only saving grace is that we may not be held to account for our thoughts until we act on them, although even those are not hidden from Allah and he alone knows best.
أَلَمْ يَعْلَمُواْ أَنَّ اللّهَ يَعْلَمُ سِرَّهُمْ وَنَجْوَاهُمْ وَأَنَّ اللّهَ عَلاَّمُ الْغُيُوبِ
Translation: “Don’t they know that Allah knows their hidden thoughts and their private conversations, and that God knows fully all the things that are beyond the reach of human perception”? [Surah Tauba 9:78]

There is a difference between the archiving of information about citizens on government or google servers and the archiving of information about us on divine servers. While the acquisition and filing of personal data in this world is for security and commercial (advertisement) reasons, the accumulation and updating of our data which is performed by the two angels assigned to each living soul is for presenting evidence, lest a person denies the charges and claims he never did any evil deed for which he was being charged.

It is not necessary that the charge against a person will come only from Allah. It can also come from other people who may have been wronged by the person being held accountable for his deeds. In such cases when it is proved that he did wrong to another person, the aggrieved person will be given the virtues/good deeds of the aggressor as compensation. If the accused runs out of good deeds and still there are other claimants, the sins/bad deeds of the aggrieved persons, after presenting the evidence will be transferred to the account of the aggressor. No one will receive a verdict without evidence and no one will be able to say I was wrongly judged. This is the perfect justice of our Lord.

May Allah give us the understanding to be conscious that there is nothing hidden from our Creator whether we are in the company of others or in the complete privacy of the most inner sanctums of our private homes. This is because wherever we seek to hide we will carry with us our ears, eyes and skin which will testify against us before Allah. [41:22]

February 4, 2018






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