Have you ever watched a bank heist in a movie. It is exciting. Technically, if there aren’t CCTVs or alarms or any other mechanisms that increases the risk of you getting caught, you could get away with a bank heist in real life. Anyone could do anything under those circumstances. However, real-life is more practical, and law and order are ingrained into every individual in any civil social systems. Surveillance society, according to the Surveillance Studies Network, are societies which function due to “the extensive collection, recording, storage, analysis and application of information on individuals and groups in those societies as they go about their lives”. The implementation has changed alongside technological innovations. Now, we are conditioned (somewhat) to barely care for privacy.
Jeremy Bentham developed the Panopticon concept – which was later cited by Michel Foucalt in Discipline and Punish (1975). The purpose: to regulate citizens. This modern structure allows guards to see inside each cell from a high tower in the middle. The prisoners know they might be watched, but they do not know when. As Foucalt said, “He is seen, but he does not see; he is an object of information, never a subject in communication.” The Panopticon acts as an “internalised coercion”; prisoners would self-regulate their behaviour. The fear is instilled into them; therefore, a general state of order is achieved. One of the ways this translates into reality is how we behave a certain way, following an established code of conduct, because we know we are being observed. It is common understanding that if we steal something from a store, there will be CCTV footage and we would be arrested, for example. We have been taught that there are things we can and cannot do, and these norms are interwoven into our minds more than we realise.
Surveillance keeps us out of trouble. But it ensures that the people in power stay in power. After all, they make the laws, establish systems, and collect all our data especially through our activities on the web (even more so with social media). They hold so much power by acquiring knowledge about a very large percentage of the world’s population. Only certain groups of people have access to all the information, hence oppression is a clear possibility. According to a new eMarketer report, “Worldwide Social Network Users: 2013 Forecast and Comparative Estimates”, by 2017, the global social network audience will total to 2.55 billion. And surveillance doesn’t only occur via social media.
A negative effect is that journalists are not able to completely protect the anonymity of their sources. This could mean less people approaching journalists to assist investigations. However, new and traditional media have a purpose in this confusing chaos. A lot of people simply do not fully understand privacy implementations. The media functions as a liaison, informing people (in simpler terms) about what is actually happening to their information. It could also be used to spread a pro-privacy message.
New technologies, which reinforce surveillance, could also be used to fight them. Yes, there is less privacy, but people in power are also subjugated to this new transparency. The Edward Snowden case, WikiLeaks, and the Panama Papers mean that no one can hide any longer.