Are We Being Watched???
March 22, 2009
retrieved July 1, 2009
David Lyon, a Queen's University sociologist, who is also a leading figure in the fast-growing field of surveillance studies, is only too aware of the many ways we're
all being watched.
Closed-circuit TV cameras, like the ones concealed in the local coffee shop ceiling, are among the most common. Since 9/11, their use has exploded worldwide.
Britain now has an estimated 4.2 million CCTV cameras — one for every 14 citizens. People in central London are now caught on camera about 300 times a day.
One estimate puts the number of public and private CCTV cameras in the United States at 30 million.
"I find it mind-boggling when I see what they do in Britain," Lyon says. "Police officers on bicycles now have video surveillance cameras in their helmets," he
exclaims, then blurts, "What kind of a world are we living in?"
A very different world. Enabled by computer technology and algorithms, driven by a mania for security, safety and certainty, and engineered by a class of
mathematicians and computer scientists. We're seeing just an unbelievable intensification of monitoring capacity," says the University of Alberta's Kevin Haggerty,
a surveillance expert. "There's an ability to connect all of this stuff across realms that is just a little unnerving."
Surveillance is a condition of modernity, integral to the development of the nation-state and to global capitalism, writes University of Victoria political scientist Colin
Bennett in his new book, The Privacy Advocates: Resisting the Spread of Surveillance. "It is that important."
More than ever before, our lives are visible to others, from government agencies and security services to the owners of the websites we surf and the stores where
we shop. They track us in public, in workplaces and online, compiling our personal information in massive databases and sorting us into categories of risk, value
CCTV cameras are just one of their tools. Others include radio frequency identification (RFID) chips, GPS location trackers, website cookies, facial recognition