Global Surveillence

A price to pay for freedom?

Surveillance comes in many forms and has become an accepted way of life throughout the world today. Whether surveillance is a good or bad thing is not easily decided as surveillance has both positive and negative attributes. Surveillance can be found throughout many locations that we may visit throughout our lives and these can vary from a virtual location such a Facebook or a physical location such as outside the local Woolworths.

Drones are powered aerial vehicles that can either be controlled autonomously or through remote control from the ground. Drones are quite frequently used by military forces for surveillance and reconnaissance purposes and also to contain and unleash missiles and bombs. The art created by James Bridle allows drones, that are conceived to be invisible to the public eye, become visible. Bridle has created ‘Drone shadows’ throughout various locations to create awareness of the presence of drones in society. For Bridle, drones ‘represent a tangible aspect of the unseen network of data and computer code that connects people across the world’ and creates the art pieces to show the public that surveillance is everywhere and often invisible. . After the Queensland Government seized Bridles plans for a new drone shadow to be created in front of the Queensland State Library it became obvious to him that the Queensland Government preferred that their ‘intentions and actions remain hidden.’ Through Bridle’s statement artwork it is evident he believes that humanity has a right to privacy and information and that it is important to inform individuals of the information that might be being withheld from them.

Although people have a right to privacy, it seems to me that a loss of privacy is a fair price to pay if the reward is catching a terrorist. The Queensland government themselves have Privacy Rights that must be followed and respected by the government however there are some exceptions. One of these exceptions is Law Enforcement. If the government has resonable grounds to, they are able to not follow the privacy rights laws. This breach of privacy could result in the collection of a criminal and this, for me, is a price I am willing to pay for safety.

Throughout out Bridle’s blog post ‘Australia: Drone Shadows, Diagrams, and Political Systems’ he often implies or directly states that there is some kind of secrecy, within in the government, taking place. He does this with the direct statement that his art is used to ‘cast light on the actors who would prefer that the reality of their actions remain hidden’. In 2009 the Queensland Government put into effect the Right to Information Act. This act allows citizens to access any information they ask for unless there is a good reason not to and administrators must tell you the reason. ‘ The only reason the government can withhold information is that its disclosure would on balance be contrary to the public interest’ (Queensland Government) It is evident through the statements made by the Queensland Government and the Office of the Information Commissioner that the government will not hold back any information if they feel it is necessary and they have a good reason to.

However is saying these things, I do believe the Queensland Government was in the wrong when they denied Bridle artwork which was due to be places infront of the Queensland State Library. Aswell as the Right to Privacy and the Right to Information, the Queensland Government also has Freedom of Expression implemented. This ‘relates to any medium, including written and oral communication, the media, public protest, broadcasting, artistic works and commercial advertising.’ However this, like the Right to Privacy, has exceptions and may be ‘restricted in areas such as posting on the internet, the urging of violence or classification of artistic material and in relation to publishing defamatory information about someone’ (Queensland Government). The Government believed that the artwork might make the Afghani community uncomfortable as there was an excebition of Afghanistan artifacts taking place in the Museum next door however they did not consult with the Afghan community to determined whether this was the case therefore this reason is not justified and it was wrong to deny Bridle his freedom to express.

Bridle’s artwork raises very sensitive issues and, perhaps for the government, they are issues that they may not want to be shares with the public. By law, the government has a right to invade on privacy and the right to withhold information and I believe that they should have these rights, as these exceptions to our rights could be the very thing that saves Australian and others from Terrorists attacks. Whether the Queensland Government was right is denying Bridle to display his artwork is debatable however I feel that the Government should have collaborated with the Afghan community to finalise their views on the artwork.

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