Guest post: Panopticon-based policing

Originally a comment by latsot on Put out that light!

The one guy should have just visited his dad without posting about it on social media

Should? Why? He did nothing wrong.

While no harm was arguably done in this case, this kind of oppressive, bullying security theatre should concern us greatly. Panopticon-based policing is always open to abuses of the worst kind and to institutionalised inhumanity.

We tread a fine line with surveillance, particularly when it’s technologically-enabled. Having CCTV cameras everywhere is one thing when they are only used to forensically examine crime scenes (even when they radically expand the notion and boundaries of crime scenes) but CCTV linked to face-recognition software and used for pre-emptive police action is quite another. But the latter inevitably flows from the former unless we’re really, really careful and history shows that we’re not. Hell, that tweet shows that we’re not.

Surveillance inevitably becomes mass surveillance because it’s really useful to governments and because we can achieve it in small, easily defended steps. But it’s on a ratchet, of course, and once we’ve taken such a step, it’s almost impossible to step back again.

Just in case you don’t already think I’m being overly dramatic, here’s the obligatory Orwell reference:

There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live-did live, from habit that became instinct-in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.

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