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Pros and Cons of Surveillance Society

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Introduction

In theory, the privacy of an individual is strongly supported by law. As such, people are expected to go about their daily activities with a maximum assurance of their confidentiality.[1] With this part of the theory established, there is also another essential aspect of the discussion: morality.[2] Often, when an issue such as surveillance in the society is raised, a theory-practice dilemma seems to be experienced as the question of whether people must be allowed to engage in morally unacceptable conduct in the enjoyment of their privacy is raised.[3] This essay looks at two sides of an argument about the pros and cons of having a surveillance society based on the theory of surveillance and privacy. 

Arguments for the Surveillance Society

On the whole, those who argue for surveillance society take the right side of the debate, having the main conclusion that the guarantee for having the right thing done should come ahead of personal and individual rights and privileges.[4] The primary reason that is cited to back this argument is that the world becomes safer and get criminals accounting for their deeds when there is maximum surveillance.[5] Typical evidence that can be used to support this is Trayvon Martin, who was fatally shot by George Zimmerman. Indeed in the course of the trial, evidence from eyewitnesses could not prove credible enough for the eventual judgment to be accepted by both sides. This is because there were variations in accounts given as to what happened.[6] In such a case, a person reasoning from a moral perspective would just wish there was a means to hit rewind, which can only be made possible if any of the two people involved wore a personal recording device.[7] 

Pros and Cons of Surveillance Society

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From the above, the premise stated is that a surveillance society guarantees the safety of the people and protects them from the hands of evil people who would want to commit crimes and have their ways with them. With the example give, an unstated assumption is that should all people wear personal recording devices, the issue of evidence in court would be more credible. By inference, our current society will become more secure, and most forms of legal struggles that take years to hear in court would become a thing of the past.[8] As the legal process functions mostly on evidence, it is expected that such forms of evidence that come through surveillance equipment in society would set the pace for having better evidence-based judgment.[9]

Arguments Against a Surveillance Society

The other side of the case against surveillance society is commonly upheld by those who argue from a legal or law perspective.[10] This is because these people simply hold the main conclusion that using wearable cameras and other forms of personal recording devices as part of a surveillance society would simply leave all people with no privacy.[11] The reason for stating this point is that even when there may be genuine instances where the acts and actions of a person should be captured on camera for evidence purposes, there could be obtaining other untargeted persons whose privacy may blatantly be disregarded. Meanwhile, the law on privacy is evident in protecting the personal actions and movements of people as long as the desire these.[12]

The premise of the argument made above is that suspicion must not be a basis for which the respect we had for people’s privacy must be respected.[13] There is, however, a missing premise based on which an assumption can be made that as technology has the promise of growth in the future, overly relying on surveillance will lead to a time when there can virtually be no distinction between what is private and what is public. By inference, there must be clear rules on how surveillance should take place in society if the core provisions of the law through privacy can be protected.[14] The possibility of abuse and difficulty in controlling what happens when wearable cameras get into the wrong hands is, therefore, a basis for which surveillance society is condemned.[15]

Conclusion

The relationship between law and morality remains an essential area of public discourse, especially regarding topics that have to do with privacy. This thesis has been justified by the arguments that have been had for and against the surveillance society in the paper. To a large extent, the article has established that in a human establishment, the need to have regard for both law and morality is critical. For this reason, a position cannot quickly be taken as to whether surveillance society is right or wrong. But given the fact that law or legality often has its basis established in morality, it would be expected that whenever there is a crush between law and morality, that side that weighs towards honesty will be made to prevail. With this said, the need to have surveillance in society will be justified. 

References
Case Law
  • State v. Zimmerman (2012) CF-001083-A
Statutes 
  • Directive 2002/58/EC”, L 105/54
  • Surveillance: Citizens and the State, HL 18-I (report) and HL 18-II (evidence), House of Lords Constitution Committee, 6 February 2009.
Books 
  • Agamben G, Homo Sacer. Sovereign Power and Bare Life. (Standford University Press 2011) 75.
  • Althusser G, Ideology and ideological state apparatuses. (Verso 2003) 90.
  • Castells M, The Rise of the Network Society. (Wiley Blackwell 2009) 4
  • Gorov L, Salt Lake, sets massive security for the Olympics. (The Boston Globe 2002) 20.
  • Lyon D. Surveillance As Social Sorting: Privacy, Risk, and Automated Discrimination. (Routledge 2012) 281.
  • Norris C and McCahill M, Victims of surveillance. (Macmillan 2003) 34.
  • Norris C, From personal to digital: CCTV, the panopticon, and the technological mediation of suspicion and social control. (Routledge 2012) 123.
Articles 
  • Ashworth L and Free C, ‘Marketing Dataveillance and Digital Privacy: Using Theories of Justice to Understand Consumers’ Online Privacy concerns’ (2009) 67 Journal of Business Ethics 62.
  • Bayer R and Fairchild A, ‘Surveillance and Privacy’ (2010) 290 Science, New series 5498.
  • Graham S, ‘CCTV: The stealthy emergence of a fifth utility?’ (2002) 3 Planning, Theory & Practice 237.
  • Shenk D, ‘Surveillance society: Openness is the best defense against intrusions into our private realms’ (2006) 7 EMBO Report 31.
  • Ufuoma K and Ayemo O, ‘Applications of Social Control Theory: Criminality and Governmentality’ (2012) 2 International Journal of Asian Social Science 1032.
  • [1] Lawrence Gorov, Salt Lake, sets massive security for the Olympics. (The Boston Globe 2002) 20.
  • [2] Gambaga Agamben, Homo Sacer. Sovereign Power and Bare Life. (Standford University Press 2011) 75.
  • [3] Lapaz Ashworth and Charles Free, ‘Marketing Dataveillance and Digital Privacy: Using Theories of Justice to Understand Consumers’ Online Privacy concerns’ (2009) 67 Journal of Business Ethics 62.
  • [4] Lauren Althusser, Ideology, and ideological state apparatuses. (Verso 2003) 90.
  • [5] Kafui Ufuoma and Obena Ayemo, ‘Applications of Social Control Theory: Criminality and Governmentality’ (2012) 2 International Journal of Asian Social Science 1032.
  • [6] State v. Zimmerman (2012) CF-001083-A
  • [7] Michelle Castells, The Rise of the Network Society. (Wiley Blackwell 2009) 4
  • [8] Davis Shenk, ‘Surveillance society: Openness is the best defense against intrusions into our private realms’ (2006) 7 EMBO Report 31.
  • [9] Samuel Graham, ‘CCTV: The stealthy emergence of a fifth utility?’ (2002) 3 Planning, Theory & Practice 237.
  • [10] Surveillance: Citizens and the State, HL 18-I (report) and HL 18-II (evidence), House of Lords Constitution Committee, 6 February 2009.
  • [11] Robert Bayer and Albert Fairchild, ‘Surveillance and Privacy’ (2010) 290 Science, New series 5498.
  • [12] Carlos Norris and Martin McCahill, Victims of surveillance. (Macmillan 2003) 34.
  • [13] Directive 2002/58/EC”, L 105/54
  • [14] Charles Norris, From personal to digital: CCTV, the panopticon, and the technological mediation of suspicion and social control. (Routledge 2012) 123.
  • [15] Daniel Lyon, Surveillance As Social Sorting: Privacy, Risk, and Automated Discrimination. (Routledge 2012) 281.

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