The consistent advancements in modern technology has heavily impacted society in the 21st century. Emergence of surveillance has become crucial, especially of higher authorities watching over the general public. The idea of monitoring individuals to create a safer nation has been proposed long before modern technology’s current development. “In 1787, the philosopher Jeremy Bentham proposed the construction of a ‘Panopticon,’ a circular building with cells along the outer walls and…a watchtower…from which all the cells could be seen but no one would know…whether he was actually being observed” (Singer 425). New surveillance technology is taking place of a physical “Panopticon” and is implemented in our daily lives. We’re on our smartphones, laptops, and tablets updating our online footprint all the time. The fact that the government and companies can access this information could be quite dangerous. Peter Singer, the author of “Visible Man: Ethics in a World without Secrets” discusses the feats our society goes to in order to have a more comfortable lifestyle. “We sign away our privacy in exchange for the conveniences of modern living, giving corporations access to information…which will then be used to target us” (425). Mass surveillance by higher authorities has become a convenient superpower. The government and companies can look online into a civilian’s social, economic, or political life at anywhere and anytime. Nonetheless, the outcome of constantly being watched outweighs the risks over the benefits. Possibilities of higher authorities getting ahold of information illegally can have drastic consequences, especially if false accusations are made. It is quite vital that these higher authorities are keeping the public informed too. It is the general public that makes a direct impact to the government and companies. Surveillance in our modern society has drastically changed since it was initially introduced, nevertheless may be quite negative and risky overall.
It is widely known that the emergence of surveillance technology has unleashed the possibility of the government and companies getting ahold of civilian’s personal information, often illegally. Singer expands on the information being seized before our own eyes. “Since 2001, the number of U.S. government organizations involved in spying on our own citizens…has grown rapidly. Every day, the National Security Agency intercepts 1.7 billion emails, phone calls, instant messages, bulletin-board postings, and other communications” (Singer 425). Often times, the intentions of the data collected may not be malicious but the idea that authorities have access to material that would be kept safer is concerning. An example of this could be applied to information on sources such as the Deep Web. Figure 1 breaks down the three parts of the internet perfectly and reflects how this information is potentially being accessed by the government. Shrikant Gupta, author of “Difference Between Surface Web, Deep Web, and Dark Web” goes into detail, specifically about the Deep Web. “This is another part of the internet which is not indexed by Google any search engine…These are Google drive and other cloud storage platforms where you store your important or private data…never shared on search engines for privacy purposes” (Gupta). Higher authorities should not be heavily monitoring individuals who have not commit a crime. As surveillance technology becomes even more advanced, devices such as physical cameras may not be as necessary as before. The political cartoon in Figure 2 supports this claim by checking a social media account as accessing an individual’s personal information. Data such as medical records, legal records, and academic information can be obtained right before out eyes. As surveillance technology tends to become more cutting-edge, personal information will become more accessible than ever before. It is always beneficial to remember to be safe online and not have data that could lead to be risky and detrimental to life.
With the amount of information higher authorities have grasped on the general public, human errors occurring is a very strong and common possibility. Making false accusations is a very real outcome based on the information one may hold on the other. Data could simply be perceived in one direction and cause devastating consequences, if not deadly on an individual. “One glaring example is the case of Brandon Mayfield, an Oregon attorney and convert to Islam who was jailed on suspicion of involvement in the 2004 Madrid train bombings…Mayfield sued the government and persuaded a federal judge to declare the provision of the Patriot Act that the FBI in investigating him unconstitutional” (Singer 427). This argument can be pinpointed to Figure 3 as Mayfield discusses case after the exoneration himself. Superpowers like the government and companies are subject to make mistakes because they are human. Using sources such as social media, search engines, and data storage can allow these jurisdictions to pick up on material that is very destructive. At other time, that information can be destructive enough to a point where it is fatal. A well known example of large scale paranoia was the case of the drone strike occurring in Yemen. Aziz Mabkhut al-Amri, the brother of a groom in the attack discusses the heartbreak that killed many members of his family and friends in Hyacinth Mascarenhas’s article “Life Under Drones – In Victims’ Own Words”. “‘That is the feeling of a person who sees his brothers, cousins, relatives and friends dead by one strike without reason” (Mascarenhas). Figure 4 represents this tragic scenario very accurately. There are hundreds of images such as these found in war-torn drone strike countries. Surveillance has caused these jurisdictions to make such commanding decisions, only to be incorrect and cause even greater discrepancies. With the future advancements being made, innocent individuals in a society must only hope that they are not further targets.
Mass surveillance towards civilians has put a detrimental toll on the knowledge the general public has on higher authorities. Since these jurisdictions have more power and control over individuals, it is very difficult to get information about the truth of surveillance and how the government and companies use it. Keeping information secretive from the public can in fact become more detrimental than beneficial. The founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange talks about prejudiced governments in his December 2006 blog. “The more secretive or unjust an organization is, the more leaks induce fear and paranoia in its leadership and planning coterie” (Singer 429). Figure 5 depicts the secretive authority very well. The man on the left, most likely a civilian, is discussing how the government opposes transparency and how it is such a debatable topic. The citizens of our nation barely know what is happening surveillance wise in our technological world. Tomas Van Houtryve, a writer and photojournalist bring statistics into perspective in his article, “From the Eyes of a Drone”. “The London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates that over 200 children were killed in drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia” (452). These authorities with constant surveillance over the general public has begun to use it in a negative light. With the general public having little to no knowledge of how surveillance devices such as drones are being used, means they are clueless. In order to make wiser decisions, it is crucial for these higher authorities to provide accurate, valid information.
The 21st century has been an age of emergence of modern surveillance technology. Devices such as GPS, license plate readers, and traffic cameras has helped make life easier and prevented crime. Nonetheless, as the amount of surveillance technology increases, there is room for malicious behavior. Higher authorities such as the government and companies may use this opportunity to intrude into the general public’s privacy. They may even make false accusations while not informing the civilians of their corrupt true surveillance technology means. It is ideal to not get involved in a risky situation such as this that could therefore be detrimental to life, with no recovery on the line.