1.1 To say we are consciously or unconsciously sleep walking into surveillance society is a question of fact because frankly speaking individuals in the society go through some form of surveillance in one way or the other. This is because there is a sense of security that is attached to surveillance and as a result individuals embrace it sometimes with the knowledge that there could be risks that come with being watched meanwhile there are others who walk into a surveillance society without any knowledge of such dangers.
1.2 Judging from past and present events that were reported in several cases, journals and articles about the benefits and dangers that accompany a surveillance society, I am of the opinion that there is a need to analyse in detail, the concept of a surveillance society in order to know if the concerns of the Information Commissioner are justified or not.
1.3 In this essay I will be looking into different issues in relation to a surveillance society such as individual privacy, data protection, laws that provide for data protection, different forms and types of surveillance that are used in our present day society, surveillance technologies e.t.c, with the view that at the end, my research would be able to provide some form of clarity as regards the concerns of the commissioner on the concept of a surveillance society.
Definition Of Surveillance
Surveillance was described in a report ‘as having information about one’s movement and activities recorded by technologies on behalf of the organisations and governments that structured our society’.Surveillance was also defined as ‘a purposeful routine, systematic and focused attention paid to personal details for the sake of control, entitlement, management, influence or protection’. In my opinion I would say surveillance is a total denial of one’s right to freedom and control of life and this is so because to be under surveillance means that almost every aspect of an individual’s life is been watched, monitored and controlled by others who consider themselves superior and thereby deny people of their right to privacy and control of different aspects of their lives.
Professor Ian J.Lloyd in his book ‘Information Technology law’ said that as individuals in a society we go through different types of surveillance and made reference to Alan Westin who in his seminar work ‘Information Technology in a Democracy’ identified three types of surveillance as follows;
- physical surveillance
- psychological surveillance and
- data surveillance
Physical surveillance is a form of surveillance that involves the watching and monitoring the acts of individuals in a society and can be carried out with or without the use of surveillance technologies for example the use of spies and spooks whereby a person is being followed and watched by a private investigator or security agencies and has been said that such surveillance can only be used applied to a minimum amount of individuals.
Psychological surveillance on the other hand involves the use of surveillance technologies to monitor the activities of individuals in a society by the use of interrogations i.e. asking questions in order to extort information either with the use of torture, personality tests e.t.c and this form of surveillance often violates the rights and privacy of individuals in a society.
Data surveillance which is the third form of surveillance involves the use of one’s personal information to monitor their activities because also everything we do as individuals gives out some form of information about us and if not used properly by the data controllers and for the right purpose could end up posing great risks and dangers to lives of individuals in a surveillance society and I am of the view that ‘dataveillance’ is the most prominent form of surveillance that is being used in our present day societies due to the fact the almost all countries are technology compliant and as such the movement of personal data can be carried out with ease with the use of devices such as the computers, telecommunications and so on.
Having looked at the various forms of surveillance that are present and being used in our society today, I will then go further to explain the how we as individuals live and co-exist in a surveillance society looking at the different types of surveillance technologies and how they are used to control the activities of individuals in a surveillance society.
Living In A Surveillance Society
The idea of a surveillance society arouse from the fears of the government and people as regards the reoccurring danger and threats to lives of individuals coming from past events like terrorism, high crime rates in the society such as fraud, armed robbery, shop lifting e.t.c. In other to have a degree of safety and find solutions to these problems, and as such certain measures and forms of surveillance were introduced in other to provide security, but we forget to ask whether these solutions are even appropriate and there might be more less invasive answers and as a result, individual’s right to privacy and anonymity are infringed on but we don’t see that because of our fears with risks and dangers, rather than with more positive social goals and has closed our eyes to the dangers and consequences of living a life under surveillance.
The United Kingdom (UK)is an example of a country that is fully compliant with the idea of a surveillance society because almost every aspect of their lives starting from taking a walk on the streets, driving their cars, taking kids to school, going shopping in the supermarkets, going to the hospital and even in their work place they are under surveillance and this is so because the UK is a highly technological developed country and as such has access to a lot of surveillance technologies that can be used to monitor and control the activities that take place in the life of their citizens and has also been described as the most surveilled country with more CCTV cameras but the irony of this is that it still has loose laws on privacy and data protection.
In Britain there are about 4.2 million CCTV cameras, one for every fourteen people that means that an individual’s activities can be captured by over three hundred cameras a day, it was also accessed by reporters to have the biggest DNA data base with over a million innocent peoples data or information on it some of which they are aware of and some of which they are not and with the advent of new and improved modern surveillance technologies being introduced individuals will be subjected to even more surveillance than they are going through today.
A surveillance society is not a total bad concept in the sense that it has its advantages and its disadvantages but the important thing is to weigh which one carries more weight after which we can decide the way forward. Some of its pros are that it provides security and prevents the people from computer hackers, terrorists, threats to public security e.t.c. Another one is that it helps in improving services like healthcare and it makes our daily lives more convenient such as paying bills because of the different forms of technology that are being used.
Having said a little about to pros of a surveillance society let us also look at some cons with the mindset that I intend to delve into it in a more detailed manner later in this work. The first one which I consider the greatest negative effect of a surveillance society is that it is a threat to the privacy of individuals in a society even though we seem to be more concerned with our fears and in the process over look the possibility that being fully dependent on surveillance technologies for safety could end up being of more harm to us than good. Another one is that surveillance yields lack of trust and raises suspicion between citizens, and citizens and the state in the sense that if we both have nothing to hide or if we are not looking for something to use as weapon against ourselves, why do we as individuals in a society always feel that there is a need for us to control and monitor our activities.
This few positive and negative effects that I mentioned above is just a brief insight into the effects of a surveillance society in our lives but for now let’s take a look at a some surveillance technologies and how they are being used to control our lives in the society today.
There are different kinds of surveillance technologies that are used in our society today which can also be summarized under the different forms of surveillance as I have spoken about earlier and the reason for this is that it makes it easier for both we the individuals also known as ‘ data subjects’ in relation to ‘dataveillance’ and the state who are said to be the ‘data controllers and processors’ to be able to monitor and control our activities in an easy and efficient manner in the sense that such technologies can performs different activities in accordance with the particular purpose for which they were made. Some examples of surveillance technologies includes as follows;
(a) Video surveillance i.e. the use of Closed-circuit Televisions (CCTV)
(b) Telecommunications surveillance
(d) Shop Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags
(e) Loyalty cards
(f) Internet cookies
(g) Data flows
(h) Locating, Tracking Tagging technologies
(I) London Oyster cards e.t.c
This form of surveillance is considered the most popular kind of surveillance technology that is used in a surveillance society because it in the use of CCTV camera and its function is to be able to capture the image of individuals in a society while going about with their activities with the aim of preventing crime. CCTV cameras are devices that are actively been used in Britain today in the sense that almost everywhere you go, there are cameras watching you and as such uses a lot of money on the production of these cameras and it has been predicted by experts that by the year 2009, they would will spend up to 642 million on video surveillance software which in the year 2004 cost them 147million and has not helped in solving their crime rate.
This involves the use of technical equipments such as Global Positioning System (GPS), tapping of phones by the police or security services and it involves communication and the exchange of data and information which is enabled by large scale digital and computing systems such as the internet.
Biometrics is another very common surveillance technology that is really being used in our society today because in most big organizations, embassy, airports e.t.c and it is a form of identification that includes body trace e.g. fingerprints, iris scans, facial topography and hand scans which are all used on different passports and I.D card systems. Biometrics has also been predicted to cause UK a healthy sum of 4.7 billion industry in 2009 which initially in the year 2003 cost 675 million and this is so because of the creation of more sophisticated surveillance technologies like smart cameras to iris identification all with the belief that there will be accuracy in identification and crime will be reduced.
Radio Frequency Identification Technologies (Rfid)
It involves the use of radio frequency communications as a way to track goods as they move through the supply chain. RFID are embedded into products, pallets and cases thereby enabling the RFID readers read information from those tags.
Data Flows Surveillance
This is a very sensitive form of surveillance in the sense that it involves data that is gathered by surveillance technologies and it flows around computer networks and has been described by ‘Clarke R ‘as ‘dataveillance’
which is ‘the systematic use of personal data systems in the investigation or monitoring of the actions of one or more persons’.In most circumstances of data subjects consents to giving their data, but what now happens in a situation whereby the data is transferred elsewhere and there is no idea as to where the data goes by either the public or data sharing agencies. In such a case one tends to wonder if we can say we have confidence in the state as regards the safety of our data.
With the use of these technologies you can see that in a surveillance society ones live can be monitored in its entirety in the sense that everything you do has one form of surveillance technology which can be used to track you some of this other technologies include Global Positioning System(GPS) which can be use in tracking your precise location, loyalty cards which can be use to determine your capacity in shopping and as such marketers know how to target a customer based on his or her spending habits and even the internet can be monitored because every individual leaves trails when browsing the internet and this trails are called ‘cookies’ which are left on a user’s machine which recognise the machine when it next visits that site thereby making the activities of user traceable.
There are also non-technological means of surveillance of surveillance which we practice as individuals in the society such as eavesdropping, watching, use of human spies and many others but these methods due to the advent of technology and modernity are gradually fading away because they are looked upon as effective as the technological means do. This is as a result of a belief that surveillance technologies will provide faster means of security ,safety and certainty and instead of individuals to also have in mind the dangers and consequences that this surveillance technologies could have on their lives because all this forms of technologies involve the transfer of personal data from one data base to another which could also move from country to country and could eventually fall into the wrong hands thereby defeating the whole reason for their use in the first place.
That leaves us with the question of how effective are these surveillance technologies to our lives and to what extent can we say that they have made more of a positive impact on our lives than the negative ones.
The Negative And Positive Impact Of Surveillance On Our Society.
I would like to say start by saying that a surveillance society has its negative and positive impacts on our lives as individuals in the society but the negatives impacts are greater than the positive ones and this is so because surveillance in the information commissioners report it was brought to my knowledge that the surveillance society has a way of setting traps for individuals in a society and this traps includes;
(a)Thinking that surveillance is a product of new technologies and
(b)Thinking of surveillance as a malign plot hatched by evil powers.
Ones an individual’s looks at the concept of a surveillance society in this light then it is easy for one to fall into the trap of a surveillance society and the dangers that it poses to how lives.
Apart from a sense of security, safety, minimum amount of risks ,swift flow of goods, people and information which we as individuals believe are the positive effects of surveillance on our lives, what other way can we really say that a surveillance society has improved our lives or limited the risks and dangers we go through every day because irrespective of all the different forms of surveillance both technological and non-technological means, it still in my opinion has not kept us out of harm’s way and has been described in many reports, articles, journals and so on as been a failure and is in fact the source of most of our problems instead of a solution because today in the UK for example with all the millions of CCTV cameras everywhere, the level of crime on the streets are still high, terrorists are still attacking innocent people, individuals personal data are still being used against them and so on and this is all thanks to surveillance.
Surveillance creates room for suspicion and lack of trust in the society because why should employers feel there is a need to monitor the affairs of their employees at all times by monitoring their actions at all times, bugging their cell phones, putting tracking devices in their cars company vehicles, storage of employees personal data, making them under certain medical tests and answering personal questions about their lives which could be used against them in the future for instance if an employer was to find out that an employee is suffering from a medical disease, it cost that individual his or her job and may even affect them elsewhere if such personal information was to leak.
Surveillance exposes individuals in a society to harm in the sense that we as individuals don’t know sometimes who is watching us and what purpose our data is being used for because in the UK and the world at large, we still do not have competent and secure data protection laws that would secure our database from unauthorized access or leakage and therefore leaving us in harm’s way if our personal data was to fall into the hands of the wrong person in the sense that even those people watching us could be a threat to us instead of providing us with security.
Surveillance encourages social discrimination as to race, ethics and class in the sense that sometimes our personal that is being used to determine the level of surveillance we get in the society for example the minorities in a society when it comes to movement from one country to another tend to be scrutinized more than the elites and this could result in their being denied visas to move around the world and another example of this is in a movie titled’ 2012′ which was a movie about the world coming to an end as a result of a ‘natural disaster’ and the state who are suppose to be the guardians of the public and provide them with security and information being that they have their personal data, informed the elites of the society of this terror in time and offered them protection of their lives for a certain amount which they could pay and where ready to leave the minority or lower class to die just because they don’t have such resources. This is a high level of social discrimination because how can our so called data protectors claim to have all the surveillance different surveillance technologies at their disposal and still not be able to provide people in a society with a minimum amount of security.
Surveillance encourages deceit and dishonesty and function creep in the sense that the data controllers tell the people that they need their data for a particular purpose and end up using such data for another purpose. Also surveillance technologies help to marketers to manipulate customers data in the sense that the use of ‘Loyalty Cards’ which is common in the UK helps producers and marketers to be able to monitor the resources of a customer by their shopping habits and as such they come up ways to direct marketing to that customer in order to make profits and this is wrong.
Another negative effect of a surveillance society which I consider to be the most crucial is the infringement of one’s right to privacy and the total loss of an individual’s anonymity in the society. Privacy is a fundamental right of every individual in a society but you find out that in a surveillance society, it is not possible for one to exercise that right because everywhere you go, you can’t be anonymous because there are either cameras watching in on the streets, offices, shops even in your car you are being watch and as such the whole idea of privacy and anonymity has been defeated.
This and many others are the effects of surveillance on our society today most of which are negative than positive and I must said that our regulatory bodies with regards to surveillance still have a lots of work to do with regards to the surveillance society try to come up with more effective ways in which they can grant us more confidence that our society is safe as a result of being under surveillance.
The Right To Privacy In Relation To A Surveillance Society
What Is Privacy?
The issue of the concept of Privacy in relation to the context of a surveillance society has been one of great contention in my mind because I am of the view that an individual’s privacy in a society is a constitutional right which should not be infringed on but it seems like there is no way that individuals in a society can be under surveillance and exercise that right over their lives.
There is also no way that one can talk about the surveillance society without the issue of privacy. Privacy and surveillance cannot co-exist together without one being a hindrance to the other because a surveillance society cannot function properly without crossing the path of privacy and the concept of privacy cannot be practiced within a surveillance society and this poses as a dilemma to us as individuals in the society because we are now left with two option which are as follow;
(a)Choose Surveillance and forego your privacy and
(b)Choose your Privacy and live with the possibility of being exposed to danger and risks at any time
Having been giving this options what choice can we make from the two because either way it seems like you will be losing something important. In light of the above will then go further to analyse the different definitions of privacy and relate it to the present day surveillance society and see how far we have gone.
Definitions Of Privacy
Privacy was defined by Judge Cooley in the year 1888 as ‘The right to be left alone ‘another definition of privacy by some writers in the report defined privacy as a matter as;
‘The right of the individual to be protected against intrusion into his personal life or affairs or those of his family, by direct physical means or by publication of information’
Privacy which is very important in a individuals life in the sense that it is the only form of dignity and pride that any individual has and if no laws made to protect this right people in a surveillance so will seen just become like ‘puppets’ in the society whom have no form of control what so ever as to how their personal data and information are being used and manipulated by the ‘Puppet masters’ also known as the ‘Data controllers’ as they please which could be dangerous to individuals in the society.
Article 8 of the Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms (Convention), 1985 provides which was ratified by the Council of Europe provides that;
‘’ (1) Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.
(2)There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interest of national security, public safety of economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health morals or for the protection of the rights of freedoms of others.”
This convention as of that year was not a confirmed law and as such so its provisions could only be confirmed in European Courts and because UK was a signatory for the Council of Europe, the Convention applied to the UK but in 1998 the Human Rights Acts (HRA) was enacted in the UK and were incorporated into the UK law and a more recent Law was enacted in 2000 in charter 7 of the Fundamental rights of the European Union which provided for right to privacy in respect to modern day communication.”
Despite all these laws in relation to privacy there are still many issues in relation to surveillance and privacy as will be discussed below.
Issues Of Privacy In Relation To A Surveillance Society
A surveillance society is a huge area of contention in relation to privacy in the sense that it affects an individual’s privacy in every aspect of their lives e.g. privacy in relation to health, employment, press, race, ethics, finance, reputation e.t.c.
Eric Barendt in his book Privacy and the Press described the fight between surveillance and privacy as (‘Political’) in the sense that the ‘prominent figures mostly politicians, celebrities, members of the royal family are trying to protect their lives from media scrutiny meanwhile on the other hand the press which is surveillance in this case is fighting to retain their liberty of publication’
He was also of the view that ‘privacy is a fundamental human right that should not be Infringed on either by the government, business, individual or the media”
As individuals in a surveillance society we need to have the right to preserve our privacy but if our actions keep on being monitored all the time either by technological or non-technological means of surveillance this aim cannot be achieved because everything we do in a surveillance society leaves a trail behind that can be traced back to us and also joint with the fact that our personal data is constantly being transferred from one data base to another and processed by different processors makes access to our personal information easy for people.
In the case of R v Brown, Lord Hoffman passed his judgement stated that:
‘Privacy which is the right to keep oneself to ourself,to tell other people that certain things are none of their business is under technological threat due to the different and various types of surveillance e.g. surveillance cameras, telephone bugs e.t.c that are used by individuals in the society today.
Also in the case of Leander v Sweden, Mr Torsten Leander was denied employment as result of his personal information which was held in a register and was revealed to his employer without the knowledge of the kind of information that was kept about him and for what purpose it will be used for and this constitutes a breach of his right to privacy provided for in Article 8 (1) Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms (Convention).
In the case of Campbell v Mirror Group Newspaperswhich relates to privacy and the press in the sense that taking pictures of Miss Campbell right to privacy was breached when the this media house published photos of her leaving Nacortics Anonymous which was a facility where she used to attend therapy as a result of her drug addiction. She appealed on the grounds of breach of confidence by the media and which is one of her fundamental human right and against the provisions of the Data protection Act (1998). The court of appealed was against the verdict of the case but on appeal the House of Lords passed judgement in her favour which also gave rise to other opinions concerning the extent to which ones privacy can be said to have been breached and this is as a result of the fact that there are no unified laws that protect individuals privacy in the society because what might constitute privacy in one country may not be viewed the same way in another country.
In a more recent case of Craxi v Italy judgment was passed and it was established that there was indeed an infringement of Article 8 of the European convention on human rights in the sense that even though Mr. Craxi was guilty of committing certain offences, it was held that:
‘the state failed to provide safe custody of the transcripts of telephone conversation which Were presented as evidence before the court and to subsequently carry out an effective Investigation as to how those private communications were released into public domain”
This and many other issues reflect the gradual and total loss of our right to privacy and anonymity in a society because irrespective of the different Laws that have been established in our society today can we honestly say that they are protected our personal information from the dangers of a surveillance society such as globalization, the internet and the continuous invention of new technologies by virtue of new modern discoveries.
It is a known fact that a society cannot exist without laws and supervisory authorities or bodies that would regulate the actions and behaviours of individuals in a society. In a surveillance society most especially there is a great need for laws and bodies to be established in other to oversee and supervise the way our personal data is being used and transferred from one place to another because without people watching those who process our data, there is a risk of danger to us as individuals in the sense that our information could be manipulated and used against us if it were to fall into the hands of the wrong person, we could be subject to blackmail by criminals, discrimination to our person for example if medical data about an individual who has a disease such as “HIV” or other deadly diseases was to leak, such a person could be subject to social discrimination and stigmatisation to his person, reputation and so on.
As a result of this, different countries have different supervisory authorities who possess some powers to ensure that our privacy and lives are protected in a surveillance society. Article 28 sub sections (1) and (2) of the data protection Directive provides for the establishment of these supervisory authorities and their powers. In the UK we have the information commissioner meanwhile other member countries except Germany have a single supervisory authority who supervise the affairs of their personal data.
Different Laws have been enacted and put in place in our society today so as to make sure that our personal information is protected but these laws have their strengths and weaknesses and cannot be relied on completely by in individuals in a surveillance society. Most of this law are guided by some basic principles such as;
(a)Personal data must be processed fairly and lawfully.
(b)Personal data should not be use for any purpose other than the purpose it was
(c) Personal data must be accurate and kept up to date.
(d) An individual must be informed of when personal data about them is collected.
(e) The purpose for which personal data was obtained should be stated.
(f) The consent of the individual must be obtained before obtaining their personal Information
(g) Individuals must be told how their data will be protected from misuse.
(I) Individuals should be told how they can access their data and should be able to verify
Its accuracy and request changes where necessary and so on.
These and many other are the basic fair information principles(FIP) the regulate the control of our personal data in a surveillance society these principles exist side by side with some other laws in controlling the use of our data some of these laws include;
(1) European Data Protection Directive 95/46/EC.
(2) Data Protection Act 1998.
(3) Regulation of investigatory powers Act 2000.
(4) Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Act 2001.
(5) The Council of Europe Convention.
(6) OECD 1980 Laws.
(7) Telecommunications Directive (97/66/EC).
(8) Electronic communications Act 2000.
Data Protection Act (1998)
The need of data protections laws arouse out of the growing use of computers in the 1970s and the threat to personal privacy that rapid manipulation of data posed and as a result data was made easily accessible from many different points of as a result of computer technology because they make it possible for data to be transferred from one data base to another by data controllers and processors such as employers, companies