Exploring privacy freeloaders

Your life is being lived in public whether you choose to acknowledge it or not. Emily Nussbaum

Information Commissioner Richard Thomas, the chief official in charge of managing public information in Britain, has warned of the increasing risks associated with a 24/7 surveillance society. Thomas is concerned about the way people’s electronic records are being used as more institutions hold personal data. “The use of ‘unseen and uncontrolled’ surveillance is threatening to erode the public’s confidence in many of society’s institutions.” To the House of Lords Constitution Committee, he states,

“The state have fundamentally altered the way it relates to its citizens. Microphones that can eavesdrop on conversations in the street are the next step in the march towards a Big Brother society. Tiny cameras, hidden in lamp posts, will replace more obvious monitors.” [link]

Remembering Benjamin Franklin in Britain, the Commissioner repeats to Parliament,

“Those who lightly give up their liberties in the name of safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

Informatization of Life
Surveillance & Society is a peer-reviewed transdisciplinary online journal examining changes in our culture such as monitoring smells with olfactory surveillance [pdf], open street Closed-Circuit Television [pdf], and somatic surveillance, ‘the increasingly invasive technological monitoring of and intervention into body functions. Psychological profiling is a type of surveillance that is rapidly advancing into the mind of individuals.

Friends, neighbors and strangers are increasingly becoming tracked as well as trackers. In this pdf, People Watching People, David Wood looks at the growing popularity of peeping and tracking in Japan and the growth of intimacy surveillance around the world.

Techdirt catches the school using a webcam system to take regular snapshots while students take tests.

Commercial mass surveillance [wiki]
BusinessWeek predicts that biometrics will become a healthy $4.7 billion industry in 2009, up from just $675 million in 2003, and video surveillance software will reach $642 million in sales from a mere $147 million in 2004.

Aikido Tracking
Kaila Colbin is exploring privacy at VortexDNA. Noticing few regulations, she asks, “Do you think it’s enough to have good intentions not to share user data?”

Her idea is the “Aikido approach” to privacy and surveillance:

“When someone comes at you with a great deal of energy, it is foolish to try to resist. The most effective response is to embrace the energy and move in the same direction.”

If there are few regulations,
if data can be incorrect or abused,
if surveillance is sloppy and poorly managed,
if governments and companies too easily make errors,
is it wise to protect ourselves by recording our own tracks?