We slipped into the waiting cab, following a loud, spirited debate, the air filled with confident claims of unmatched prowess by 3 cab drivers greeting us, as we arrived.
The scene was a kind of orchestrated chaos, as the cabbies boasted of being the city’s best drivers (of course). They made big promises that any others would surely get us lost, or worse yet — we’d arrive to our destination late.
We countered their ongoing warnings and appeals with assurances of being in no hurry, while we patiently awaited the cab already neatly booked for a much lower fare than any of their offers, thanks to Yandex.
I always enjoy a good debate, but as a longtime sales and marketing professional, most of all I love observing expert sales techniques in action. One of the most interactive debating cab drivers was especially persuasive, looking me squarely in the eye as he shamelessly touted his stellar navigational ability and expert driving proficiency level to seal his promise of quickly delivering us to our destination. He was obviously a natural!
Knowing he undoubtedly offered “quality” service (he said), we could reasonably expect to pay more to ride in his cab. As nearly any traveler will attest, his knowing we just arrived to this city, automatically allows him margin to potentially fudge a higher fare because we likely wouldn’t know what it should be. As it turned out, neither Universal Truth mattered, because a sale was not made. We soon parted ways.
Unsurprisingly, the sky appeared to be painted a flat charcoal gray. Presented in an uninspired design, the brushes apparently were wielded in an inexpressive style. The blank sky made it impossible to gain an intuitive feel for the area, or predict the weather, beyond what it is. Ominous. Foreboding.
It was raining. This is exactly as I’d pictured Moscow to be — cold, wet, drab, filled with an air of mystery, just like all the Soviet spy movies. Only this was in the daytime, and today I believed the spies to be well camouflaged, with imperceptible cameras and live microphones turned-on, to surveil every move.
Once settled into our ride, a dedicated attempt to meteor toward our destination by cutting through the snarled stalemate ensued. Our driver remained determined, albeit underpaid, according to the debating driver’s standards. I did see him a few cars ahead of us, then disappearing into the abyss of traffic heading another in another direction.
From the backseat, I quietly looked out of the passenger-side window. A thought of him came to mind. I had thought of him quite a lot, and for a long time. It had been years, really. I was here now, and so is he (purportedly). This is Moscow, after all.
When Edward Snowden first captured international attention in the summer of 2013 with his claims regarding the NSA invading US citizens’ personal privacy, outrage erupted. The result was polarizing, ranging from anger and concern by staunch opponents, to nonchalant acceptance by others, with not many others falling somewhere ‘in between.’
My observation is that most people appear to have long been operating in a state of denial, thinking their privacy had never been breached. The most difficult realization is if the good guys have the capability to collect metadata, so do the bad guys.
Couple this ability with a naive concern that countries, entities, and individuals believed to wish us harm, might be tipped off by our public discussion as we air our collective laundry, and you have a recipe for true disaster. Because it is their mission, these rogue states and bad actors were well aware before Edward Snowden spilled the beans, actively collecting data and surveilling targets.
No matter how you feel about Edward Snowden, NSA, government surveillance, he did us all a favor by creating awareness. In doing so, he risked everything he had, losing all he will ever have in making this practice known.
Interestingly, now 4 years after Edward’s stunning reveal, it seems we haven’t moved very far forward in this area. Some experts claim to be unsure regarding the current status of the metadata collection and storage. This should be concerning to everyone, no matter how you view this matter of personal privacy and your metadata.
Ironically, my family and I spent July 4th [Independence Day] in Moscow. I never did see Edward.
I began writing about security issues and personal privacy in 2008. Articles and curated content shared regularly via:
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