Our lives as Big Brother’s most watched show

“Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble.”

Or so we thought.

In the 236 years since the Declaration of Independence, the world has collectively turned into a more controlling place to live.

And we’re letting it happen.

In a recent interview with The Independent, Andrew Rennison, the U.K.’s first surveillance commissioner, spoke on the over-reaching capabilities of closed circuit television, stating that “the technology has overtaken our ability to regulate it. It’s the ability to pick out your face in a crowd from a camera which is probably half a mile away.”

According to the article, there are almost 1.85 million HD CCTV cameras in the U.K., and that they can be found “everywhere from streets and malls to hospitals and schools.”

This breech of privacy isn’t exclusive to the U.K. or TVs, for that matter.

While the U.S.may not have an established CCTV system in place for citizen surveillance (though U.S. government access to security cameras is still a debated topic), there is still monitoring to be concerned about. Last month, Twitter was required by lawmakers to release information about an Occupy Wall Street protester to the New York Criminal Court.

While Twitter put up a fight against the release of user’s information, the court case still sets a dangerous precedent. Twitter argues that user information is protected under both first and fourth amendment rights, yet when pushed to choose between rights and business, Twitter chose the latter.

The problem here isn’t Twitter, or CCTV, or even the government, but the people who allow such violations of privacy to happen.

While the technology of “predictive policing,” as seen in the movie “Minority Report,” isn’t a reality yet, CCTV and monitoring of social networks are the next best thing for governmental entities. But we aren’t only allowing governments to monitor our every move, we’re encouraging it with publicly “checking-in” and posting our whereabouts for everyone to see, even without a search warrant.

With the growing use of technology both in the mobile and digital spaces of our personal lives, it can be difficult to define what is OK to post and what’s not. While we’re likely far away from the eerily possible world of “V for Vendetta,” it is going to take a wise balance of restraint and push-back to prevent the government’s invasion of citizen privacy under the guise of national security.

 

Reach the columnist by email at caleb.varoga@asu.edu, or follow him at @calebvaroga

 

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