2 April 2018

Harvesting personal information

The lid has been blown off the way personal information can be harvested from Facebook and other social media.

Photograph: Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images

The Cambridge Analytica whistle-blower has exposed how political parties and advertisers can target us, based on our online profiles. These are the uncomfortable realities of our digital age. Strangely, it's all come to light just as the new General Data Protection Regulation is coming into effect on 25th May 2018. The law is tightening up the way companies collect and hold our personal information.

God knows everything about us
Nonetheless, who knows about us, and how much they know about us is a big issue for many people. We find it hard to trust even our nearest and dearest with very personal information, let alone strangers. So it should sober us up when we find in the Bible that God knows everything about us, and keeps a record of it all.

In Proverbs 5:21 it says, 'The LORD sees everything you do; wherever you go he is watching.'

Psalm 139:1-4 says, 'You have searched me LORD, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue, you, LORD, know it completely.'

And Hebrews 4:13 says, 'Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.'

Negatively, this is terrifying. People may be able to cover their traces on the dark web. We may be able to delete our online history. We may breathe a sigh of relief that no one saw something we did, and that people can't read our thoughts - except, we find, that God can! And because he made us to be responsible human beings, in the end he holds us to account for everything. Revelation 20:13 tells us that the books will be opened and each person will be judged by God according to what they have done.

Deeply reassuring
Positively, this is deeply reassuring. In the gospel (the Bible's message of good news from God) we are told that, despite our wrongdoing, God still loves us. 'For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.' John 3:16-17. The gospel tells us that, for every person who puts their trust in him, God's Son Jesus took the record of all their wrongdoing, and suffered the judgment of God for them in their place as he died on the cross. Jesus died for our sins.

No more hiding
This means that everything we have thought and said and done is taken into account, and all of it is forgiven by God on account of Jesus. His death has paid for it all, in full. This means we are set free to be completely open and honest with God. We don't need to hide from him; and we don't need to hide anything from him, because he has already seen it all, and wiped our history completely clean. Thank God he knows everything about us, and yet has been so incredibly kind to us. Join us on Sundays to find out more about God who loves us so much - who sets us free to become the truly human people he created us to be.

Simon Smallwood
Pastor at St George’s