from the once-it-starts... dept
Jessie Hirsh has a great blog post about the seductive power of surveillance
, covering how surveillance systems put in place with limitations and for the best of intentions almost always get abused, as it just becomes too tempting
to use them to a much greater level. The example he discusses, of course, is the recent webcam scandal
involving a school that used webcam images of a student at home in a disciplinary action. In that case, the "surveillance" was intended
for recovering lost or stolen laptops only, but the mandate was allegedly "expanded" when an image taken (supposedly because a "loaner" laptop had been taken off campus) also showed the student eating candy
that the school administrators thought were drugs.
Hirsh also points out that, beyond the temptation to just expand what's monitored, being able to watch over someone just has it's own (potentially dangerous) addictive quality as well -- by noting "the intoxication people feel from being the watcher." That also, I believe, is a part of the reason why law enforcement is always so keen on increasing surveillance efforts. It's just incredibly powerful to be able to watch over others.
It's definitely something that needs to be thought about carefully, as we become an increasingly watched society. But how do you deal with it? Hirsh brings up the idea -- proposed many times before -- of being able to watch the watchers
or even to open up the surveillance process to the public
to have them help out. This horrifies some people, but it's at least something that people need to think about. Greater amounts of surveillance in society aren't likely to go away any time soon -- so recognizing the risks associated with it and coming up with unique and innovative solutions to deal with (or minimize) those risks makes sense.