The Emerging Culture of Surveillance

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The recent data mining controversy involving the NSA is symptomatic of the broader emerging culture of surveillance.  However, Orwellian big brother isn’t really the issue-it’s the series of little brothers that pose the real threat. The digital communications we use at work log everything we do, supermarket bar code scanners track purchases, media companies archive our choices, law enforcement issues citations and insurance companies persuade drivers to install wireless monitoring devices.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Workplace surveillance remains on the rise with random drug testing, keystroke tracking, internet, text, social media monitoring and RFID badges, which track employee movements. This management style promotes unnecessary internal competition that compromises cooperation, autonomy and a sense of trust in employee contributions. New hires are routinely subjected to credit and background checks for arrest, convictions, worker compensation claims and lawsuits.

Publicly, the number of surveillance cameras monitoring street intersections, banks, airports, malls, department stores, drive thru lanes and government buildings is a collective intrusion which has crept into every aspect of our daily lives from how we drive, what we eat, where we shop, the television we watch, the websites we visit and who we communicate with. This emerging culture of surveillance thrives under the guise of safety, efficiency and benign euphemisms. In the case of the NSA it was named Prism and promoted as anti-terrorism. Progressive auto insurance calls it snapshot and encourages safety. In corporate America the stated objective is efficiency and referred to as “workflow management.”

From routine consumer data mining to the ultra-surveillance Plantir facility that collects data in terms of yottabytes-one septillion. To the JSOC, whose surveillance efforts make the CIA look like UNICEF, it begs the question of how many civil liberties we are prepared to sacrifice, because ultimately, surveillance of any sort is simply another expression of power and control.

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