The society that we are living in we are being watched constantly. In this paper we will be looking at how it is all changed over the years and the benefits and drawbacks of surveillance society. This report will also be looking at how social networking sites allowed this surveillance environment to move forward.
“With high numbers of closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras per head of population, ID cards and digital passports on their way, and the creation of new databases such as that of the NHS, people living in the UK are becoming increasingly monitored.”(BBC 2006 Nov 2nd)
The number of CCTV cameras has increased so much that we as a consumer are having our every move watched whilst we are at work or in clubs, pubs and on the road while we are driving. According to a report from BBC (BBC, 2nd Nov 2006) “there are up to 4.2m CCTV cameras in Britain - about one for every 14 people.” Which means that our every move that we are taking we being watched. However despite our every move being watched we are preventing criminal activities such as terrorism.
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“It predicts that by 2016 shoppers could be scanned as they enter stores, schools could bring in cards allowing parents to monitor what their children eat, and jobs may be refused to applicants who are seen as a health risk” (BBC, 2nd Nov 2006). The predication look very lively and the way our society is heading towards we will most likely be in an environment that we will be scanned when we use a petrol filling station and when we go and buy our grocery from the supermarket.
Jeremy Betham's Panopticon (world eye) idea which he designed in 1785, but the idea was not accepted by the society (Cartome, N,D). The original idea he had was to have a prison where the prisoners will be in their cells in between thick walls where they cannot be seen by other cell mates and be watched by the guards with out them knowing who is watching them. “The Panopticon ("world eye") functioned as a round-the-clock surveillance machine.”(Cartome, n,d). The society we are living in is a covert environment, and also has link with Bentham's Panotican because we are being monitored on what we watch on the net and who we talk to over the phone without us knowing.
ID cards, which may be introduced in the UK is one of the most talked about security issues in the country. There are many people who have issues regarding this technology. The ID card is already in place in certain areas of the world like Germany, Belgium and Spain but places like Japan, Australia, Canada and New Zealand have no ID scheme according to a report by the Telegraph (Telegraph, 25th Sep 2001). Data like blood type, age, address, medical condition etc will all be on that data card, which is useful in a way. This could be used in an emergency if needed. For example if the individual ever gets injured in an accident the paramedics will be able to identify the patient medical condition and will be able to give the medical support to the injured personnel (Telegraph 25th Sep 2001). We also need to look at how secure can this information be on a card also we need to look at if the card gets lost will the fraudster be able to do anything with our data on that card. The security on the database is that secure and how has access to all that information.
Recently the Liberal Democratic Party leader Nick Clegg has accused the labour Prime Minister of turning Britain into a surveillance society. He also added that over one million innocent people are on the DNA database and 5,000 schools now have to fingerprint the student according to a report by the BBC. (BBC, 6th Feb 2008) One question that comes to mind in the future will we all need a personal jail or police with us 24 hours a day. Also all this security is it really needed. The government need to look at what category of people are they targeting or what group of people need to be watched because people can get paranoid of being watched or spied on.
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There are benefits and drawbacks in having all these technologies in place. School's having finger scanning equipment will mean that the school could monitor if the pupils are attending classes on time, if their behaviour is satisfactory etc. At the same time the drawback of all this is do the school have permission to take the finger print without the parent's consent. Also we need to look at what information is being stored about the pupils. We need to be addressed about the information that is being stored on our children's and what is that information is being used for.
“Companies kept tabs on individuals' spending habits through loyalty card schemes and by analysing which websites they visited”. (BBC NEWS, Britain: a Surveillance Society). Before we apply for any jobs we should be given the rules and regulation and what is going to be happening in the work place and how the companies keep tag on the employee.
We as a consumer or citizen should have some rights over what we like to purchase and what we do in our spare time. Companies target us by giving loyalty cards or club cards which is a scheme by Tesco who are the supermarket giants in UK (Martha Buckley, BBC, 19th Nov 2004). To some extent there is a benefit like finding the latest offers that is suited to our needs. We need to look at that in the future could it affect our life when we want to free from everything and retire in sunny Spain.
Only recently a report by the BBC showed that only 3% of CCTV cameras in City of London actually work and are operating according to a report on the BBC website by Detective Chief Inspector Mick Neville (BBC, 6th May 2008). He stated that “the system was an "utter fiasco" - with only 3% of London's street robberies being solved using security cameras”. So was there really necessary for all those security cameras if only 3% of them actually work. This is just costly to maintain, the technology could perhaps be improved in order to improve the quality of the security within the city. Along side criminals that are caught should have a severe punishment so that in future that criminal will think twice before committing a crime.
Over the years social networking sites like Facebook and Myspace have started to grow rapidly, people over the world can communicate with friends and family across the globe. People are openly giving out their personal details on these sites without worrying about who are actually viewing these sites. According to a report by the Santa Clara university news (Santa Clara, 23rd Feb 2006) Facebook would be a perfect for stalkers to get hold of personal information about their targeted individual. Also potential employers use tools like Facebook and Myspace to find out about the individual and their personality. One way of preventing this from happening is to restrict the account so no one else but you can see the status of the account.
Once we register our information on facebook we are willing to give permission to the company that they could sell the user information to third party companies for profit. Not just that they have the write to copy edit and translate any part of the user's page without the user's permission. This in fact is not really friendly approach our information could be checked by the CIA or any organisations to use against us if needed. Yet over 3,790,000 users are using this social networking site from a statistical analysis by fastcompany.com (Fast Company, N.D). Also about 45% of the users keep their profile visible to the rest of the world.
According to a offcom report (office of communication)(offcom, 2nd April 2008) said “Some teenagers and adults in their early twenties reported feeling ‘addicted' to social Networking sites and were aware that their use was ‘squeezing' their study time.” The report states that people in their 20's are spending more time on the social networking sites, which is causing them loose track of their studies, work etc. This very addictive tool that many people are falling into can change their life totally. The way the social networking sites keep people addicted is the freedom to do what ever they wish without the user knowing that they are being watched. Ways of making people aware of the risks is for the government to warn the citizens of the potential harms that can be done to the users of these sites.
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The Google search engine is also another way our information is watched. They keep a log file of every IP address and what they have viewed through Google. “An Australian journalist kidnapped in Iraq was freed after his captors checked the popular internet search engine Google to confirm his identity” (BBC, October 19th 2004, Google saves Australian Hostage). Keeping a log file of every user and storing information about other sites can also help people also it can get people into trouble. Criminals will be watched on what they view on the net and also if needed can be used as evidence by the police or other sources.
The information society which is fast and effective for us to access information and communicate easily around the globe, yet the security and surveillance issue will always come to mind
The advantage of a surveillance society is that the citizens in the society will be protected from crime and can prevent them. One way this is being done is by keeping track of what users view online. This is important because without security there will be more crimes and it would affect which is why we have security cameras, key loggers etc.
Being in a covert society we have the freedom of doing what ever we wish to do. But we are being watched while we are walking on the streets, while we are searching the net yet we do not know where we are being watched.
These tools like facebook and Myspace are now a part of our daily life. This is why it would be very difficult to just switch off. There is also lot of applications like online free poker which people can play with friends which gives them more reasons to socialise using these sites.
The disadvantage of all these issues is that people have no freedom and cannot lead their normal life without being watched. There are many emotional problems that people could be faced with if they knew the real life and how we are living in a surveillance society. There are lot of people still don't understand and believe that they are living a life in a surveillance society where there every move is being watched.
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