March 16, 2003

Little Brother Is Watching You

Arnold Kling links to a Technology Review article about how many people are or are likely to be watching you in a few years. Surveillance technologies are avidly desired not just by Echelon but by "'Nanny cams,' global-positioning locators, police and home security networks, traffic jam monitors, medical-device radio-frequency tags, small-business webcams."

David Brin has a book called The Transparent Society that argues that near-universal monitoring is coming, and that our key task is to construct social institutions to manage what it is used for. It's looking smarter and smarter as time passes.

Corante: The Bottom Line - The economics of information technology: Technology Review on Surveillance: Compared with this blog, there are some things that are just flat-out better, and more worth reading.  One of them is Technology Review.   The latest issue has a lot of postable material.  For example, the cover story is on surveillance.

"Nanny cams," global-positioning locators, police and home security networks, traffic jam monitors, medical-device radio-frequency tags, small-business webcams...Extensive surveillance, in short, is coming into being because people like and want it.

What is happening is a kudzu-like spread of diverse surveillance technologies. For example, the article cites a survey by the American Management Association which shows that over three-fourths of major U.S. corporations use some form electronic monitoring of employees.

Ray Kurzweil uses the phrase "stones in a stream" to describe people who think that they can stop the flow of technology...

Posted by DeLong at March 16, 2003 06:53 AM | TrackBack


But on the upside, there's the prospect of full employment as more and more people are required to churn through all of the video, audio, credit card records, email, etc. Not perfect, but the Nanny-Stasi principle looks pretty good in this economy...

Big brother--ie. all-pervasive state surveillance--is a great way to burn lots of resources without providing much actual value. We'd be better of mounting camera-like boxes containing batteries for the LEDs and pretending they're cameras...

Little brother--corporate surveillance--scares the crap out of me. Figuratively. Since companies are not accountable to anybody, it seems, even the ever-shrinking protections against illegal wiretaps and such in the public sphere have never applied to the private sector.

Since I started writing about information technologies years before there was a Web, I had followed the earliest legal fights over privacy in the workplace in which courts found no right to privacy while using company equipment. I made sure I always used my own email account and bypassed in house email. Not that I had anything to hide [ironic smiley here]--it's just the principle of the thing.

I love Brin's vision of a truly universal surveillance--as expressed in his novel "Earth", since I haven't read "The Transparent Society", though I assume the former derives from the latter. He envisions total information transparency, ie. everybody can find out everything about everybody else leading to a kind of universal accountability.

Posted by: Nate Zelnick on March 16, 2003 12:53 PM
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