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Footage of remote tribe released

Photo Courtesy of National Geographic


Where is the privacy line drawn?

On Aug. 24, the Smithsonian released drone footage of a newly discovered, uncontacted tribe in the rainforest of Brazil. The footage opens with a clearing of trees surrounded by the towering rainforest. Out of the forest appears a speck walking across the deforested ground. It feels as though the speck is nothing more than an ant viewed from standing height, but then it appears to be holding a spear, and then this speck becomes something more: a human being.

Yes, the fact that modern technology has allowed for the discovery of remote groups of people is amazing, but what are the ethical repercussions of such discoveries?

According to the Smithsonian, the footage was captured by the Brazilian government as they embarked on a journey into the most remote areas of the Amazon Rainforest in 2017. The goal of their mission was to learn about the cultures of the unreached, in order to learn how to best protect their human rights with minimal to no outside interference.

While the thought of cultures that have been completely untouched by modern society gives a glimpse into an incredibly different way of life, it also may be an incredibly new type of breach of privacy. Take for example the idea that webcams can be hacked and recorded while not alerting the user. It is because of this idea that some people tape over their built-in webcams on their laptops. The thought of a complete stranger watching their daily life has terrified users into avoiding a camera’s watchful eye. How dare a person play big brother and breach the privacy of the person!

That’s the essence of the current state regarding the monitoring of these people groups in Brazil. There is something ultimately dehumanizing by releasing the footage to the general public. Without these peoples’ consent, their livelihood is being leaked for the amusement of the rest of the world. Whether they like it or not, they are trapped in a digital zoo, their sole purpose being the amusement of the outside world.

Their surveillance isn’t completely negative though. The human rights activists and government workers  have the goal of protecting the rights of the indigenous people in the forefront of their minds. Lands that have been inhabited by these people for hundreds of years are being mined, deforested, and used for commercial farming. In one incident last year, the Smithsonian reported a lethal confrontation between goldminers and natives, resulting in the death of 10 tribesmen. By learning about their cultures, activists will be more able to defend their rights to the ones who view them as less than human.

As there continues to be new discoveries of groups of people, the line of ethicality is being toed. There is no definite right or wrong. Whether that is respecting privacy or safety is up to personal discretion, but regardless of the side, there is only human respect.

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