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A surveillance society began creeping into our culture long before September 11.

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Introduction

Surveillance, a term which depicts close watching of people or things, is usually associated with places such as airports and banks. These are places where security is one of if not the most important aspect of their operation. This narrow view of what surveillance involves is becoming more erroneous with each passing day. This is because surveillance is becoming a bigger and bigger part of our society. People want to feel more secure, and many do feel more secure because of augmented levels of surveillance. However, such security is robbing people of their privacy. Thus, the public need for security has to be balanced with individual rights to privacy. However, following the September 11 terrorist assault on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon the balance between privacy and security has shifted substantially. "What was considered Orwellian one week seemed perfectly reasonable - even necessary - the next"(Penenberg, 2001). A surveillance society began creeping into our culture long before September 11. In the name of safety people have become increasingly comfortable with cameras monitoring their daily activities. While databases, cell phones, credit cards and web browsers bring many conveniences and make life easier, they allow us to be tracked, and this is not just in the United States, but also in countries such as Canada and England. For example, England has about 1.5 million surveillance cameras - more than any other country, with plans to double that numbert within three years. ...read more.

Middle

Rather, while rates of crime may have dropped in places where cameras were installed, they increased around the periphery (Norris and Armstrong, 1999, pp. 63-67). Thus, CCTV cameras serve to deter and reduce crime, only in those areas where the cameras are installed. Many would argue that the solution would be to simply put the cameras everywhere so that all areas would benefit from the crime reduction. The problem with this is that it is a technological fix to a sociological problem. Whatever cause there is for people resorting to such an act as stealing a car or a stereo from a car still remains. Over time people will find crimes which they can commit without being on camera or a way around identification while on camera. They could simply counter the technological fix with a fix of their own. Electronic monitoring, which began in the United States in the 1980s and has since spread to other countries, including Canada, is being used increasingly to keep track of people who have been released from prison under some type of house arrest. A signal from an ankle bracelet alerts authorities if an offender leaves his premises without permission. In 1994 electronic monitoring was introduced to Newfoundland as an alternative to prison, accompanied by a treatment program offered by the John Howard Society. Recent research by the Solicitor General's Department found that electronic monitoring had no effect on recidivism (the rate in which people got into further trouble with the law). ...read more.

Conclusion

With the open nature of computers, many such incidents could be occurring right now without people being aware of it. Nobody can be sure of what tomorrow will bring, but it is likely that existing technologies will come together. A 'Smart Card' is one likely possibility. Such a card would carry all the information we have on all our separate cards right now and probably more. This would likely include banking information, medical information, driver's licence information, social insurance and so on. However, this would be quite dangerous because all the databases would be accessed by the same card. So an insurance company would be able to check the medical records for every past illness of an applicant to determine its rates or simply deny service. As Lyon (1994, p. 98) states, "This provides a telling illustration of the ways in which conventional boundaries between surveillance spheres are being overridden using the capabilities of new technologies". The rapid changes in telecommunications technology have meant a growth in the intrusiveness of electronic surveillance and a tremendous increase in its use. The debate over the effectiveness of electronic surveillance, the extent of its proper use in the workplace and in cyberspace and its intrusiveness will continue, along with over-riding concerns about privacy issues. It appears in the post September 11 era that new surveillance tools will continue to be developed, and the balance between privacy and security will continue to tip more toward security and more toward a surveillance society - a fact that should concern us all. ...read more.

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