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Surveillance We are being watched.

As we go about our daily business, closed-circuit televison cameras observe and record our every move. In the UK alone, there are over four million CCTV cameras keeping eye on the public. In a major city, we can expect to be seen by security cameras around 200 times during a single day. The increasing pervasiveness and sophistication of this surveillance technology raises philosophical questions both epistemic (to do with the acquisition of knowledge) and ethical (concerned with living the good life). The epistemic considerations affect the CCTV users: governments, law enforcement agencies and businesses. Their desire is to capture specific types of knowledge about us reliably and efficiently. They wish to form justified true beliefs about our actions and intentions, so that they can identify enemies of the state, detect crimes taking place and protect property, amongst other things. In epistemology, justification is the means by which a belief can be shown to be a true belief, so this is very different from ethical justification, which is connected to the virtue of justice. A particular true belief is justified and hence can be regarded as knowledge if it is formed in a legitimate way. In the case of CCTV systems, true justified beliefs might be formed by tracking individuals, capturing high-quality moving images of them and analysing their actions in well-founded ways. The epistemic problems here would include (a) possessing the ability to identify people worth tracking (b) being able to make and display clear visual records of the actions of these targets, and (c) being able to draw good conclusions about the significance of the events observed and recorded. These are similar to the sort of epistemic issues that we confront every day: What is worth looking at? What do I see? What can I justifiably learn from this? In this respect, the CCTV operator, watching a bank of monitors and zooming and panning the cameras by means of a joystick, is epistemically equivalent to a police officer walking about, watching certain people who catch his or her attention, and making inferences from what is observed (eg I have seen a mugging take place). There are differences between the two cases, though. The hunch of the CCTV operator that a particular individual is up to no good is gradually being supplemented (or replaced) by software that can analyse the body language, facial expression and behaviour of large numbers of people, in order to identify those who may be worth closer scrutiny. So a single operator can keep tabs on many more citizens than the police officer on the spot. This is a quantitative difference, but there is a more important qualitative distinction to be made, involving the breakdown of epistemic symmetry. Utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham, in 1787, designed a system for observing prisoners that he called the panopticon. The principle was that a central lodge would house an inspector, who would look out at the cells arranged along the circumference of a circular structure and could thus oberve any prisoner he chose. But the prisoners never knew if they were being watched or not at any given time, because the inspector was hidden by a system of blinds. One inspector could oberve many prisoners, but could not himself be oberved. The default assumption that prisoners had to make was that they were being

observed all the time. There are those who like to compare our modern state to Benthams panopticon, in which the few oberve the many, but nowadays use CCTV. This epistemic assymetry raises significant ethical issues. Many people feel uneasy at the rise of surveillance and talk of George Orwells 1984. They claim that civil liberties are being eroded and our right to privacy is being trampled on. While few would object to the authorities oberving genuine criminals or enemies of the state, defining these is not a simple matter. There are fears that innocent members of the public are in effect being regarded as possible criminals, and that the category enemies of the state might be extended beyond those plotting its violent overthrow to those who are merely inconvenient to the government of the day. Even though the ethical intuition that there is something wrong with the proliferation of surveillance technologies is widespread, it is surprisingly hard to mount a principled ethical argument against the spread of CCTV. Indeed, some philosophers argue that there is no objection to on the grounds of ethics. Jesper Rydberg, compares a surveillance camera to old Mrs Aremac (camera spelt backwards), who spends her days watching the street scene below from her third floor apartment. She is doing no harm to the people she watches. They have no strong right to privacy, since they are in a public space, and the fact that they cant see her watching them is neither here nor there. Replacing the camera with a benign, but nosy, old lady makes it harder to attack the notion of surveillance from an ethical point of view, but perhaps the numbers involved in reality changes the argument. If there were 4 million old ladies watching the street, each keeping a log of what they saw and reporting anything suspicious to the authorities like the Stasi informers of the former East Germany we might regard them less sanguinely. One might also argue that, because we are aware of the presence of the cameras, they have a chilling effect on us. And since they are causing us distress they ought to be banned. This argument doesnt stand up, however. Lots of things about the street scene might distress us, including the poor taste of the architecture, the crassness of the advertising and the grumpy faces of the other pedestrians, but these emotions cannot justify a ban. Furthermore, the chilling effect is just what the authorities are seeking. It is the secular equivalent of the message that God is watching and taking note of any sins you commit, in order to mete out punishment later. The cameras are hidden in plain view (did you spot them in my photograph?) so the innocent citizen will not notice them, but the potential criminal will be discouraged by their chilling presence. Anonymity biometrics targeted advertising http://books.google.ie/books?id=tlTmY5fKRDgC&pg=PA33&dq=surveillance+cc tv+ethics&hl=en&sa=X&ei=SP5LT7VJIeGhQfQu5SZDw&ved=0CHcQ6AEwCQ#v=onepage&q=surveillance%20cctv% 20ethics&f=false