We are all fully aware of cameras watching us day and night on the streets and in shops, especially in Britain, yet it appears to be a case of ‘out of eye line out of mind’. Why are we not bothered by such a huge infringement of our privacy?
Safety seems to be the word that crops up a lot in arguments favouring CCTV. Admittedly they do help bring about evidence for certain crimes and are also a deterrence in certain situations, yet cameras are not always installed with this idea in mind.
In the first chapter of Mark Dice’s Big Brother the Orwellian Nightmare Come True, he discusses the more unethical uses of videoing the general public. He gives examples of cameras being set up in school bathrooms, private homes, airplanes and even ones placed in laptops that activate whenever it is switched on. A lot of the cases mentioned are rare and some have since been resolved, but of course this is not the point being made. The fact of the matter is that these events have happened or are still happening, and they are still not widely known about despite the evidence available.
Currently there are three hundred cameras dotted around Holland that pick up ‘aggressive’ vocal tones which then raise an alarm to security services, much like the listening devices used in Demolition Man and A Brave New World. The company Verint sells technology that studies a customer or an employer’s every movement to increase efficiency. Smart phones track your whereabouts every second of every day and some people even voluntarily give up this information via Facebook and Twitter. There are X-Ray cameras, face recognition cameras, license plate scanners and minuscule videoing equipment that can be placed anywhere and everywhere. This is no longer a nerd’s fanciful musings, this is reality.
Some are frightened by this concept and others comforted, but it doesn’t all depend on whether you have ‘something to hide’ or not. There are those that write their every movement on the Internet but I feel this should not be deemed standard social behaviour, but rather something bizarre and disturbing. We are beginning to view CCTV as an acceptable and required system when it is actually incredibly unnatural and undesirable. Is Big Brother really this easy to accept, did Orwell overact about the prospect of constant surveillance? Is privacy even important?
This question leads me to ask whether dignity is important, or polite behaviour or morals or dreams or ambitions or love or hate. To me privacy is a human requirement, and with the decrease of our privacy comes the decrease of our humanity.
Why is it that a faceless person in your house watching you as you sleep is an idea for a horror film, yet a video camera doing the exact same thing isn’t?