But are we not already in a world of surveillance and security? From Foucault’s ideas of discipline and punishment, the idea of ‘big brother’ has been knowingly and unknowingly implemented for many years. Additionally, Bentham’s all seeing panopticon style prisons, designed to constantly watch inmates without them knowing, really has changed the face of surveillance in today’s day and age. Of course, Bentham saw his prisons to have a positive effect on criminal’s behaviour, but does it work the same with the general public?
Primarily focusing on the digital and information age we have entered, one of the major advantages for companies has been to selectively distribute advertising and promotions from monitoring peoples shopping and internet surfing habits. Furthermore governmental bodies have been to make sure that people are always aware that internet surveillance is possible through frequent media coverage and legislative action. This not only makes the shopping experience more personalised and customised for our preferences, but it allows a higher level of security to protect the community from unauthorised and potentially dangerous online behaviour. However, this level of monitoring begs the question, how far should they go?
This is only one example of the effects monitoring peoples online presence can have. Whether you see this as a positive or negative, there will always be the concern that personal data could be leaked, hacked or modified without consent. Already major sites like Google and Facebook are able to see what you’re doing online, your likes, dislikes, shopping habits, social groups, hobbies and even find your location, all while you use their services. This is not information that they discard, they use this as a way to ‘make your online experience better’ but in reality they can use all the data to manipulate what you buy, choose what they want you to see and potentially change the course of your internet use. If this power is given to major corporations, allowing easy access for government bodies could mean even your private conversations, calls, messages and sensitive data could be analysed without your knowing.
Granted, if the police ask to see information, normally we are happy to allow this, but the legislations that are being considered could be compared to someone rummaging around your belongings in the home while you’re away. Would you like the idea of that? Safety vs. privacy, the line is thin and it’s hard to tell where that line sees fit for everyone. But it does seem very much like the panopticon prison idea will be stretched to everyone’s daily lives in some shape or form sooner or later.