(Ironically) Threatened by the Security

As a part of the mass society, it’s no secret anymore that we are being watched by undisclosed watchdogs, whether it aims to serve the public with an excellent security or just purely intended to track the activities of the public. In this high-tech society, there has been a proliferation of surveillance where it has been highly normalized as a part of this modern era where technology remains as a prominent figure in every little part of our activities.

This is me casually doing a satirical video of surveillance cameras :)

Well, here’s an eye-opening quote from Latour (1999):

“the more science and technology succeed, the more opaque and obscure they become.”

Although the authorities’ efforts to excessively install surveillance cameras in public places should be given a round of applause, this truly gives a blurry picture whether the existence of surveillance cameras give the ultimate benefits for the public.

The real question here is whether excessive usage of surveillance cameras equals to maximum safety for anybody and will it guarantee that it will minimize people from doing harm?

“In the three years after installation (of the low density CCTV system), robbery and theft increased by one and a half times inside the covered area, and by three times outside it. There was no evidence to show any other effect on crimes targeted by

CCTV and reductions in vehicle-related crime were more probably as a result pedestrianisation scheme” (Horne, 1998). This has proven that more CCTVs are not equal to lowering the crime rates.

Commercialization of CCTV, Ambiguity and Prejudice

The one-sidedness of surveillance cameras made it possible for authorities to use the footage that is found through the CCTVs to gain commercial benefits. “Much has been written about the broader politics of CCTV — in terms of how the cameras are connected to the commercial imperatives and spatial renaissance projects of neoliberal ideologies (Coleman 2004).

Title: ‘Surveillance: America’s Pastime’, Image by Jared Rodriguez, source: Flickr. (2010)

In some case, the usage of CCTVs might increase accidental voyeurism, as reported by Norris & Armstrong, 1999), “1 in 10 women were targeted for entirely “voyeuristic” reasons by the male operators.” This is such an uncomfortable news for women and the victims might have so little control towards it, especially if it has been leaked and sold to the news industry.

Through selling the evidence, the one who owns the medium (CCTVs) may gain commercial benefits from it, as they may sell it to the news industry merely for a business purpose while they get the benefits economically.

This puts someone who captured by the surveillance cameras in a very unfavourable situation and it is very ironic how the system is used to protect the public and obtained to make people secure wherever they are, yet it can put them in the most vulnerable position.

Image captured by Tara Hunt. source: Flickr (2006)

Seeing evidence through CCTVs can also be highly ambiguous. The media might frame the news in their own wish, where it might be interpreted differently by the mass audience. This is beyond dangerous as it may lead to prejudice and discrimination. I personally think how they gaze upon the surveillance cameras are not equal in terms of detecting different groups of people. It is more like a targeted surveillance derived from prejudice, rather than public security surveillance.

“In this way youth, particularly those already socially and economically marginal, may be subject to even greater levels of authoritative intervention and official stigmatisation, and rather than contributing to social justice through the reduction of victimisation, CCTV will merely become a tool of injustice through the amplification of differential and discriminatory policing.” Where they added, “The young, the male and the black were systematically and disproportionately targeted, not because of their involvement in crime or disorder, but for ‘no obvious reason” (Norris & Armstrong 1999).”

It is safe to say that utilization of CCTVs as a form of urban security is not very effective in terms of protecting citizens from crimes. Despite being highly mass-produced, the evidence shows that it is not equal to maximum safety. It also leads to commercialization of evidence, prejudice and accidental voyeurism. I also noticed that that in this case, the authorities exert so much power even more than the public (which is logically speaking would be the target of this security installation). They own the data, they can sell it and when it comes to news framing, they have total control of it.

REFERENCES

Coleman R (2004) Reclaiming the Streets: Surveillance, Social Control and the City. Cullompton, Devon: Willan Publishing, retrieved 6 August 2017.

Horne, CJ 1998 ‘The Case For: CCTV Should Be Introduced.’ International Journal of Risk, Security and Crime Prevention’ vol 1, no. 4 pp.317–326, retrieved 5 August 2017.

Hunt T 2006, They are watching, Flickr, retrieved 7 August 2017, <https://www.flickr.com/photos/missrogue/94403830/>.

Latour, B 1999 ‘Pandora’s Hope: Essays on the reality of Science Studies.’ Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, retrieved 6 August 2017.

Norris C, Armstrong G 1999 ‘The Maximum Surveillance Society: The Rise of CCTV.’ Oxford: Berg, retrieved 7 August 2017.

Rodriguez J 2010, Surveillance: America’s Pastime, retrieved 7 August 2017. <https://www.flickr.com/photos/truthout/5079871358>.

pop culture devotee who writes reviews most of the time