‘Online Surveillance’ – Is it really for the greater good?
Millions of people around the world advertise themselves online. We are voluntarily open about our personal information and many of us put it out there on the internet for everyone to see. Whether you are using Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram or any other social media site, our details have been released into the world and we often don’t realise how much information we have revealed. Privacy should therefore be one of our main priorities when using the internet and being safe online has become crucial in recent years with the rapid increase in digital technology. Online surveillance has also been on the rise since online activity within society has become such a major part of our day to day lives. This blog will discuss the pros and cons of online surveillance.
Surveillance can be defined as “the collection and analysis of information about populations in order to govern their activities” (Haggerty and Ericson, 2006). Online surveillance is therefore the act of surveying computer activities and data stored or being transferred over the Internet (Centinel Limited, 2010). During my time using the internet I have noticed many forms of online surveillance and I feel that there are two main aspects to explore; the privacy interference and protection.
I was reading a news article by James Ball (2014) on how social media is being used as a mass surveillance system. It details how the information that we post on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter are monitored by the security services as they are deemed to be “external communications” (Ball, 2014). Social media sites claim to be private and therefore I think this is an invasion of our privacy. This is one of the disadvantages of internet surveillance. To me privacy is one of the most important things when using the internet and knowing that someone could see every movement that I make online is a little scary; especially when it comes to social media sites where private information is available. From having our direct messages on Twitter tracked to what we search on Google, is there no limit?
YouTube Video: ‘Stop Online Spying on Your Private Life’
On the other hand however, many would argue that internet surveillance is there to protect us and is only used as a means to do so. The police and intelligence services have the ability to access people’s online activity and emails in order to monitor crime and terrorism (Symonds, 2012). This is of course a good thing as the public can begin to be protected from serious threats; Home Secretary, Theresa May, even went as far to say that it could “save people’s lives” (The Telegraph, 2012).
So the question is; do we want a society where we are safe and protected but have zero privacy as a result? I personally think there has to be some boundaries to how much security services are able to view. Yes, it is important that we are protected, but why should we all be treated like criminals with every move being watched in order to catch the real ones.
Ball, J. (2014). Social media mass surveillance is permitted by law, says top UK official. The Guardian. Retrieved from: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jun/17/mass-surveillance-social-media-permitted-uk-law-charles-farr
Centinel Limtied. (2010). Computer Related Services. Retrieved from: http://www.centinel.com.hk/computer_related_services.html
Haggerty, K. D. & Ericson, R. V. (2006) The New Politics of Surveillance and Visibility, Toronto, Buffalo & London: University of Toronto Press
Symonds, T. (2012). How will the proposed surveillance laws work? BBC News. Retrieved from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-18434232
The Telegraph. (2012). Internet surveillance will save lives, says Theresa May. The Telegraph. Retrieved from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/9718163/Internet-surveillance-will-save-lives-says-Theresa-May.html