Surveillance Works Both Ways

“Surveilling the surveillers. It’s an idea that Number 6, the nameless hero of the classic British TV show The Prisoner, would have loved.

In an attempt to establish equity in the world of surveillance, participants at the Computers, Freedom and Privacy conference in Seattle this week took to the streets to ferret out surveillance cameras and turn the tables on offensive eyes taking their picture.” (Wired [thanks, walker])

I have written before here about the sousveillance movement, literally ‘watching from below’, the opposite of surveillance. Actually, the more interesting discussion in this article is on implementations of Michel Foucault’s notion that surveillance is not as much an action as a concept, that behavior is altered not by being watched but by the idea that one may be being watched. Many of the smoked plastic domes in stores that savvy consumers assume contain surveillance cameras may be empty. And of course many of the monitors displaying what the cameras scrutinize are unmanned.

Along these lines, I wish more earthlings realized that everything we do is being scrutinized by the aliens. On the other hand, one version of that concept, the fundamentalists’ version, that God is watching each of you all the time and knows everything you do, say or think, seems significantly accepted, and a heck of a lot of good that has done.