Academic journal article Journal of Information Ethics

Surveillance: Ubiquitous and Oppressive

Academic journal article Journal of Information Ethics

Surveillance: Ubiquitous and Oppressive

Article excerpt

We have long been concerned with surveillance. Bentham had his panopticon, Foucault his Bentham, and Orwell his Big Brother. But Bentham was a dreamer, Foucault a dissembler, and Orwell a dystopian. The real credit for prescience in the current crisis in general privacy encroachment and abrogation must go to Alan F. Westin, Gary T. Marx, and Oscar H. Gandy, Jr. They must have taken note of slinking KGB, FBI, NSA, and Mossad operatives coming and going and Chinese grandmothers spying and reporting on their sisters should one dare to have an illegal second child. They may have noticed the occasional (hidden) camera in banks and supermarkets. But that was long ago, when modern surveillance was in its infancy. As one might imagine, computers, genetics, biometrics, GPS tracking, and datamining have expanded the possibilities. These can be assessed in the countless monographic overviews of the subject, as well as in Surveillance & Society (www.surveillanceand-society.org), an online publication well worth reviewing.*

The British decided that London required constant monitoring and so they set up cameras at every street corner. Manhattan followed this lead and soon cameras were scanning pedestrians, customers, and drivers who ran red lights. …

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