Surveillance Society

Topics: Surveillance, Closed-circuit television, National security Pages: 6 (2410 words) Published: January 29, 2013
'The police are key players in the emergence of the so-called “surveillance society”. Evaluate this statement.What exactly is a ‘surveillance society’? The term is often used by the popular media to refer to the older more totalitarian notions of the ‘security state’ or Orwellian references to ‘Big Brother’ (Wood, 2009: 180). Surveillance can be defined as being a form of social control in which individuals are being monitored directly through several authorities e.g. The Government and the Police, with the idea that surveillance protects us in society by using a 'Big Brother' ideology which is developed through social norms directing individuals cognition and behaviour.At the end of 2006, the UK was described by the Surveillance Studies Network as being 'the most surveilled country' among the industrialized Western states with around 4.2 million CCTV surveillance cameras operating around Britain (McCahill; 2002), and is warned that we may be 'sleepwalking into a surveillance society'. (Richard Thomas; 2006)Cameras may not be a cause for concern when it comes to individual privacy, fairness, or accuracy; the real issue is government power. Cameras can be used as a tool for good to enforce good laws or for ill to enforce bad laws. With this idea cameras can be used like other policing tools, such as weapons police officers carry, the ability of police departments throughout the nation to gather and share data. We can accept this risk due to fact the tools are valuable and because they've set up control systems that can help diminish the risk.In this essay I shall under-go the benefits that surveillance offers and also the issues to understand if our privacy is being breached or does it really intend on helping us as a society.The social theory of surveillance can be traced back to the utilitarian work of Jeremy Bentham (1791) and his vision of rational social control. He invented the concept ‘Panoptican’ a prison design that allowed for uninterrupted inspection, observation and surveillance of prisoners (Drake; et al 2010). The fundamental principle of Panopticon order is the general and constant surveillance of inmates, workers. But Bentham believed this approach could be successfully adopted in any environment which involved some level of supervision. (Roger Hopkins Burke; 2009)The factor to the effectiveness of the system is an uncertainty, the design assures people watched cannot see their observers. Therefore leads to that people have no area of privacy, even if no-one is watching, they do not know it.The psychological aim of such a system was that the subjects of surveillance would consider that their only logical choice was to deviate. Hence each individual would become their own overseer. The external illusion of an all-seeing eye would become an inner reality of self-policing. (Bentham; 1789)Bentham illustrates that the principles of the Panopticon could be adapted within any sphere requiring some level of regulation, we can find these principles in modern day forms of surveillance, such as closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras. Despite technologically far superior to surveillance in Bentham's Era, these prime factors are unaltered and remains prevalent today, to deter people from offending through the constant threat of surveillance and the consequences of being caught on camera.(Roger Hopkins Burke; 2008)Later theorists such as Michael Foucault followed the concept of Bentham's panopiticon as an 'ideal' or 'architectural figure' of power in modern society, Foucault adopts this as a symbol of his entire argument. The theory of discipline where individuals are watched and analysed is sectioned in a building as this makes these operations simple to execute, Foucault criticises that greater sophisticated societies offer wider opportunities for control and observation. Suggesting the reference to liberty and rights, assuming that modern society is supported on the notion that all citizens are free and entitled to...
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