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The beginning of an affair

Guest commentary

Laila Harrak, Television Host at DW

Love is tricky business.

Remember the sensational headlines about a NASA astronaut blasting off on an epic 1,400 km cross-country road trip to kidnap a romantic rival? Her meltdown made for a compelling story and an endless stream of tabloid puns. If love can do that to a person subjected to more psychological screening tests than anyone in the world, what does that mean for the rest of us? She isn’t the only lover-turned-stalker that captured the imagination of the world. Rock band the Police had a massive hit with “Every Breath You Take,” aka the perfect stalker song, which makes surveillance, lurking in the shadows to watch a love interest sound deceptively romantic, instead of plain creepy.

Ah, the stuff of romance…

This isn’t an exploration of the highs and lows of matters of the heart.  What got me thinking about love and loss, friendship and – that other sentiment that is as old as time – betrayal – was the cover of a weekly German newspaper. “Goodbye, Freunde!” read the headline on the front page of Die Zeit emblazoned with a broken heart as metaphor for a ruptured relationship between Germany and the U.S. – or at least that’s the paper’s take on recent leaks of American spying operations on its allies.

As I write this, Germany is still reeling from details disclosed by Edward Snowden about the National Security Agency’s worldwide surveillance programs that allegedly gather phone records and track Internet activity. When German newsmagazine Der Spiegel broke the story that Chancellor Angela Merkel’s personal cellphone had been allegedly tapped, its scoop revealed that as far as the NSA is concerned – nobody is above suspicion.

From the start German media covered the agency’s controversial wiretapping practices relentlessly and information revealed by the NSA whistleblower continue to dominate the news cycle. Gripped by controversy over who knew what, when and where, fierce debates have erupted and most reflect the sensibilities of a country and a public fiercely protective of privacy rights. A recent poll conducted by public broadcaster ARD revealed the German public is not feelin’ the love and trust in the U.S. is at a record low.

The NSA spying scandal was the story of the month and is shaping to become the story of the year, if not the decade. And although reports rife with accusations about scheming and counter-scheming, beyond the pale practices and dueling visions of the world – this story transcends countries, governments and boundaries and the outcome affects everybody.

Whether you live in Bombay, Berlin or Bogota, this story taps into the implications of connectivity and the privacy we have all lost in a digital era where our devices are now our stalkers. And just as the story continues to unspool with each revelation, DW as an international broadcaster with a unique perspective recognizes this is a defining story of our time. Not only does it capture our zeitgeist and some of the biggest challenges facing us all when it comes to privacy sharing information online, but also how government deals with data.

The good news is that DW’s focus is to inform an international audience providing sober and detailed analysis. We ask probing questions and delve into issues that have far-reaching social and ethical ramifications. So no matter where you are, we’ve got this story covered.


You can catch Laila on Business Brief and World Stories.


2013-11-18 | 3:26



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