Last month, I attended a funeral at one of the area Baptist churches. In my peripheral vision, I noticed one of those small black domes found in department stores, attached to the ceiling of the sanctuary. While waiting for the ceremony to begin, I spotted three more of the black domes. Afterwards, I noticed more surveillance domes in the dining room of the church. I thought to myself, it’s a sad state of affairs when we believe that we must install ceiling-mounted dome cameras in a church.
It’s certainly understandable why a store manager wants video surveillance. There is the need to watch for shoplifting and loitering on the sales floor. We know why there are cameras near cash registers and why stockrooms are equipped with security monitoring. There is some degree of comfort knowing that parking lots and garages are equipped with cameras.
I understand the need for and the reasoning behind surveilling buildings and property. I spent a couple of years working for “California Plant Protection”, a security company that monitors industrial plants and shopping centers. Learning how to recognize suspicious scenarios and people was a valuable educational experience.
That said, I’m glad I am no longer in the work force. I would not be happy in a business that employed high levels of surveillance. The knowledge that a camera is poised to watch over my shoulder at every moment is unnerving. To have every keystroke at my workstation monitor efficiency is something that would hamper my productivity. The office would seem more like a sweatshop than a dignified business venue.
At home, I limit, as much is possible, the levels of surveillance. I have a piece of tape over the webcam on my laptop and make sure the virus/spyware prevention software is working properly. I’m mindful of people going door to door asking “survey” questions. I wince when I see my next-door neighbors’ landlady pawing through her tenants’ mailboxes.
The author of Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell, would probably not only approve of, but heartily participate in today’s international commemoration. Worldwide Wave at Surveillance Day is just the ticket for those of us who are dismayed at the ever-dwindling amount of privacy we have.
For the past half-dozen years, pseudonymous privacy activist Zorbitor has been promoting Worldwide Wave at Surveillance Day. Zorbitor has affirmed that each hand wave on August 16th is a way of telling those who watch us, that we are watching back. It’s a way of demonstrating our mutual awareness and solidarity about “big brother”. The commemoration is a nonviolent, borderless statement in favor of privacy.
Even though many surveillance cameras and devices are completely automated and utilize machine-vision algorithms, the act of repeated public acknowledgement of the devices is not worthless nor in vain. Actual human beings still oversee the process. At some time, a security employee will see someone wave a hand at a surveillance camera. Someone of authority will eventually make note of a passerby’s nod and smile towards the camera lens.
Regardless of how one might feel about corporate and government Internet surveillance and why it ostensibly takes place, our actions to prevent the overseers from snooping are helpful. When we safeguard our Web privacy, we not only limit big brother’s efforts to invade our privacy, we help keep our personal information safe from rogue hackers and pirates. On-line privacy promotes a better, more positive Internet for everybody.
Certainly there is a need for surveillance. However, there must be a healthy balance of watchfulness and respect for our privacy. This is especially true of the social environment in which, the level of snooping exceeds what George Orwell warned us about.
Remember to wave at the cameras today.