We are living in a surveillance society where every single movement and action will be monitored, watched and recorded, thanks to modern technology. We often see lots of CTVVs on the street, supermarkets…, several types of tracking systems, or might have heard the sentence: “This call might be recorded for reasons…” so that government officers can use the to manage customers/citizens (Gilliom and Monahan, 2013:95). Well, this surveillance is getting more widespread as social media is a great platform for exploiting a large amount of personal information because almost everyone is sharing and exposing themselves more on social networking. So, one side is insisting that there is too much surveillance following them everywhere, from outside (like cameras) to inside (like credit cards, cellphones) ; the other side stated surveillance is just a way to guarantee safety for everyone and reduce crime rates. Personally, I think it is not that bad.
Facebook became publicly used in 2006 and immediately attracted the young generation. And it has been accused of stealing customers’ personal data or scanning private message that makes people become more skeptical when using social media or leads to outrage from online community. Therefore, Facebook has constantly updated its privacy features by allowing users to share their contents with different settings from public, to friends only and only me (Boyd, 2010). And now, we even cannot see our friend’s friend list, and when we want to stalk other people’s profiles, it is not easy as it used to be. From my experience, when I wanted to see strangers’ profiles, everything will pop up, but now what I can only see are random status, profile pictures, and cover photos. Therefore, I think Facebook did put some efforts to improve its privacy system, or simply, make users believe they are still safe on the Internet.
Another controversial thing about surveillance system is data gathering, which might be awful and outrageous for users, but it is a really useful source for business, advertising, marketing and other related majors. I am currently studying PR and Advertising, and we are always looking for right directions and strategies to attract the right customers, that is why we need loads of data and market research for analysis and what is better than getting it from social media sites, where people easily reveal themselves. What we want is to simply understand our customers and give them what they desire by reflecting their interests and get the best recommendations.
Gilliom and Monahan proposed a really intriguing idea about surveillance that it actually established the reward and punish systems, which I believe that has ben drastically reshaped our decisions, choices and behaviours. When we know someone is watching us, we will consider our actions and orientate ourselves around surveillance patterns: taboos, sanctions, goals, values, rewards are part of surveillance programmes. For example, a group of scientists at Newcastle University conducted an experiment demonstrating that poster of staring human eyes is enough to significantly change people’s behavior. Over the course of 32 days, twice as many people cleaned up after themselves after they had finished their meals (Sander van der Linde, 2011).
Thomas Jefferson said, “Whenever you do a thing act as if all the world were watching.” His assumption was that we behave better when being watched (Owens, 2014).