The Enigma Of CreepingSaturday, February 16, 2013
|Watching her in Yucatán|
About four months ago my granddaughter accessed her facebook with my 3G iPhone. To my initial surprise and then horror I became aware that she had not logged out. This meant that I could read her instant facebook messaging.
It was two months ago that I found out a CBC Radio show that my action (accidental at first) had a name. It is called creeping. In the parlance of our times copter parents (the ones that hover closely) tend to creep.
Astoundingly there are American companies that sell creeping applications for smart phones. Since a good smart phone is a portable GPS device these apps can help parents know exactly where their children are at any given time. With these apps they can remotely access their child’s messaging and creep or they can shut down the phone for any period of time. These apps can be had for $100.
My daughter and son-in-law do not have these apps nor do they seem to need them in order to exercise the questionable and unethical act of creeping which in many ways is the act of reading someone’s private diary.
Is it questionable? It probably is. Is it unethical? I am not so sure. I had long conversations with two Holy Cross priests and one Brother of Holy Cross, back in Austin two weeks ago. The two priests were experts on addiction counseling and the brother was both a theologist and a philosopher with more than a minor interest in ethics. All three listened to me and were unable to give me sound advice or if creeping was unethical. I brought up the subject of that 60s blip called situation ethics and Brother Donald Dufour simply smiled. There seemed to be no clear and absolute answer.
At first I was astounded by my ability to read my granddaughter’s messages. Most were banal. Some were scary. Because her mother has access to her daughter’s phone (left at a desk or by her night table at night) plus she and her husband know their daughter’s facebook password (they are the ones who create it) I could compare notes and I could share her concerns. Soon it got so terrible (the messages, the worries) that my wife would ask, “What is she saying now?” Soon after I called my son-in-law and told him I had access to the special unfiltered facebook. There seemed to be no reaction. I was treated coolly. An hour later he had logged me out.
I felt a relief. I wondered what if my father-in-law, many years back, had called me to tell me he was reading my daughter’s diary? I would have been furious and ashamed if the contents of the diary had been intimate. I felt ashamed.
Technology, spy technology, has advanced beyond what I remember with some humour. I would call my Fedex agent ten years ago and they knew who I was, where I was calling from and that I even had a package of photographs going to a magazine in Toronto and that the package would be ready and outside my door right now. Jokingly I would ask them if they knew what cereal I had had for breakfast that day. They laughed.
I do not laugh now. It is not to unreasonable to suppose that those Fedex agents would now know I never have cereal for breakfast. But then no longer need Fedex because my photographs go to Toronto with a simple press and send at my computer.
There is one element in contemporary creeping that has relevance to an incident in England in WWII. It happened in the town of Coventry in the night of 14, 15 November 1940. Because the allies had captured the so called Enigma Machine they were able to decipher the German codes. They knew what the Germans were up to most of the time. In fact we now know that Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel was a much better soldier than we thought he was and that his adversary Field marshal Bernard Montgomery not quite the man he thought he was. The allies, the Brits, Montgomery knew what Rommel moves would be.
The German code name for the raid on Coventry and the Midlands was Einheitopreis and Churchill was warned two days in advance.
Sir William Stephenson ("Intrepid"), advised that knowing the German codes was too valuable a source of intelligence to risk. By evacuating the city, the Prime Minister would expose the source and endanger its usefulness in the future - so "Intrepid" told Churchill to leave Coventry to burn and its people to their fate. Which is what happened.
At what point is my daughter in not telling her daughter that creeping is in operation the right thing to do or not do? Do you keep creeping to perhaps be able to prevent some ultimately terrible disaster?
On the other hand I wonder how smart 15 year-olds can be. Can they not open other facebook accounts, free from parental control or to block apps from intruding into their phones. For every missile there is an anti-missile in the language of that bygone era that was the cold war.