How to Argue About Surveillance

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Fascinating post over at Threat Level about a philosopher, Sandro Gaycken, trying to construct arguments against surveillance that are as tangible as those used to justify it:

Many anti-surveillance arguments are based on vaguely emotional concerns, or appeals to abstract values, as opposed to the hard facts of suicide bombers or commuters killed on the subway.

In response, Gaycken argued that there are well-established psychological consequences to being watched, observed consistently in studies. People change, tailoring their behavior to fit what they believe the observer wants (or in some cases actively rebelling against those wishes).

[snip]

Many philosophers reject the notion that given technologies are inherently politically neutral, Gaycken said. Surveillance, for example, can be used to support democratic values of freedom, equality, and state neutrality – but its tendency to create a watched and a watching class lends itself better to totalitarianism. In a country such as Germany, which has seen democracy slide into the Nazi state, such a warning resonates strongly.

Obviously this has some relevance to current political debates.

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