Mass Surveillance/The Orwellian Government is Coming to Indonesia and Why it is Undemocratic

Indonesia tax office is planning to spy on taxpayers’ social media activity in trying to boost tax revenue as stated in this Jakarta Post article and in Kontan.co.id.

With the effort, the tax office expects that it will increase the basis data of taxpayers that currently is in the hands of the office, said Iwan Djuniardi (Taxation Directorate General communication and information technology transformation director).  He added that the monitoring activity was expected to improve taxpayers’ obedience to fulfill their obligation to pay taxes. The system is able to record taxpayers’ networks such as share ownerships, business networks and family relationships, said Iwan further.

I find the reasoning above not making sense and very illogical, that it is such a bogus excuse and reasoning. First, the government already have data of who are the members of your family, it is listed in “Kartu Keluarga” (Family Card Certificate). Second, most people use social media for socialising with their family and friends, not for discussing business, revenue, or even share ownerships. Spying in social media is definitely not the most effective way to boost tax revenue, but it is the most effective way to establish a fascist and authoritarian government, exactly like what George Orwell wrote in his book “Nineteen Eighty Four (1984)“.

Iwan said with Soneta (social network analytics) system, the tax office was also be able to monitor the relationships among the taxpayers. Through Instagram and Facebook, we can see a taxpayer’s movement from one place to another and with whom they have relations, he added.

What Iwan Djuniardi said on the above paragraph copied from The Jakarta Post’s article, was wrong in so many ways that is undemocratic and a violation of people’s liberty which is a fundamental human right. What gives the government the right to spy your movement from one place to another without any legal justification? And to spy with whom you have relations? Has Indonesia gone that bad that there is no protest to this kind of police state? Not even to challenge it?

Now, I want to highlight the dominant power that social media such as Facebook and Instagram have in Indonesia. Facebook and Instagram belong to the same parent company,  Facebook bought Instagram in April 2012 for 1 billion USD. Indonesia is Facebook’s number 4 biggest users based on countries, which you can see in this graph below. As of the second quarter of 2018, Facebook had 2.23 billion monthly active users, and there are 130 millions Indonesian Facebook users as of July 2018. By controlling Facebook or having access to spy on Indonesian people through Facebook, the Indonesian government can spy or “control” 130 millions Indonesians which is roughly 50% of the Indonesia’s total population (Indonesia total population as of 1 January 2018 is 262 millions). This number is scary.

leading countries Facebook users

Facebook has been exposed for selling people’s personal data without their consents especially with the recent Facebook–Cambridge Analytica scandal. The Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal involves the collection of personally identifiable information of 87 million Facebook users and reportedly a much greater number. The data was allegedly used to attempt to influence voter opinion on behalf of politicians who hired them. And of course, the subjects of the data were unaware that companies were selling and politicians were buying their personal information.

The scandal was significant for inciting public discussion on ethical standards for social media companies, political consulting organizations, and politicians. Consumer advocates called for greater consumer protection in online media and right to privacy.

In the recent days, governments around the world have been trying to control tech giants such as Facebook, Google, etc to control information to advance their agendas, thus manufacturing consent. That is why you see, read or hear of many censorships in the internet and social media (Facebook, Google, Twitter, YouTube, etc) recently.

These are some articles to read if you are interested:

  1. Editorial: Google’s Threat to Democracy Hits AlterNet Hard
  2. Google’s true origin partly lies in CIA and NSA research grants for mass surveillance
  3. Censorship Is What Happens When Powerful People Get Scared

Facebook outsources much of its “fake news” analysis to the Atlantic Council, a think tank funded by NATO, Gulf States and defense contractors. Atlantic Council decides what is fake news or not. If you still don’t understand what is or who are in Atlantic Council, Abby Martin’s Twitter below summarizes it best. You can also check their donor list and all the shady characters on its board.

Back to the effort of increasing tax revenue reasoning by Indonesia’s Tax Office Director Iwan Djuniardi, there are more effective ways to do it, such as eliminating corruption that is one of the major problems facing Indonesia and making it illegal to have offshore accounts for tax evasion.

The Panama Papers leaked personal financial information about wealthy individuals and public officials who have offshore accounts which can be used for illegal purposes including fraud, tax evasion, and evading international sanctions. Just to help you out Bapak Iwan Djuniardi, here is the list of thousands Indonesians with offshore accounts, even though having offshore accounts is not illegal based on Indonesian law, but it is a good start if you want to chase those Indonesians who evade their taxes.

For those who allow government or any official to spy on you because you think you have nothing to hide, here are some videos you can watch about the importance of privacy. And also some quotes to think about. Privacy is your fundamental human right since you are born, it is your self ownership.

“Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
– Benjamin Franklin

“Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.” -Edward Snowden

“A child born today will grow up with no conception of privacy at all. They’ll never know what it means to have a private moment to themselves an unrecorded, unanalyzed thought. And that’s a problem because privacy matters; privacy is what allows us to determine who we are and who we want to be.” – Edward Snowden