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January 25, 2013


Jim Vaughan

What a rich and unusual philosophical topic! I like the linkage of surveillance to loss of autonomy - I find it hard to say what is wrong with surveillance but I think you hit the nail on the head.

I would add concerns about the impossibility of controlling information once obtained. There is identity fraud (government departments are always losing disks). The phone hacking scandal and paparazzi intrusion are "unethical", because the publishing of information causes real harm to someones reputation though the subject may not have broken any law. Medical information made public can cause shame or jepodise a job. Finally, thinking of 1984, undemocratic governments of the future would undoubtedly use general surveillance data collected unguardedly now e.g. website tracking, social media, emails etc. to target political opponents. Information is power, and can be misused for purposes never originally intended.

Something you touched on, which I feel is crucial is also the issue of trust. Some employers take urine samples from employees to check for drug abuse. Others monitor their activities on computer, or using satnav tracking data. You could argue that employees working conscientiously should not object. However, by monitoring, the lack of trust shown in the relationship destroys something valuable. Trust is the currency of a relationship, so just by investigating your spouse, you are being unfaithful. I think this is why people object to overuse of CCTV etc. It damages the trust between government and governed. We all become a little more suspicious of each other.


The key need that we might be talking about here is the freedom to be oneself - to fully express one's physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual matter and energy. We don't necessarily need privacy or lack of surveillance, but we do need the right to unconditional expression, at least in some spaces. We need to know that we can relax and be ourselves regularly and conveniently, so that we don't feel the need to repress anything (causing us to be sick and liable to explode at a later point in time) for very long. We can do that even with others watching, as long as we can trust those watching to support our need to be fully human, with all our weird and messy physical and mental outputs.

So, yeah, the core issue isn't any need for privacy, really, but a need for respect and unconditional support, at least in some areas we can easily access whenever we need to vent.

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