If you are not doing anything wrong, then you have nothing to worry about. That is always an argument by people who are in favour of more and better surveillance in society. It is weird type of argument that implies that anyone who is against more and better surveillance is doing something that they do not want people to see. Which of course, is not necessarily the case. Surveillance just creates bigger cages and longer chains and some people do not like the idea of being boxed in and monitored all the time. Some people do not like the slippery slope of a monitored society that can lead to a Orwellian Dystopian. In Steven Spielberg’s 2002 film Minority Report the concept of surveillance is taken even further. Using mutated humans called “precogs”, the police are able to see crimes before they happen and are able to arrest people for “future crimes.” It is an interesting concept that unfolds throughout the movie but what implications does it have to real life? Our personal computers can reflect ourselves better than anything. In fact, people have more out on display on computer than could even be pumped for when dealing with interrogations. Which brings me to idea that should someone’s computer have the same rights to privacy as a physical person. By monitoring personal computers, the police would be better at stopping crimes before they happen.
This is not about a police state with constant monitoring. I am not suggesting that mail should be read in like in a Fascist state. Also, I do not suggest monitoring based on moral panic because everyone who uses the internet is a perverted criminal. However, it would be naïve to say illegal activities do not happen (by which I mean, more vile than pirating). An extreme example would be Armin Meiwes who posted an ad online looking for a male to be killed and eaten by him. Had there been tracking or monitoring, the life of his victim could have been saved. There are countless things you can watch, look at or read that are perfectly legal but completely outside the realm of the general public’s morality zone. Increased security is not a call for stronger morality, but for safety and putting a stop to crime. What I suggest is a system where certain activities, searches and phrases should be flagged and your IP number added to a list to determine if monitoring is needed in order to intervene before a crime happens. Yes, some privacy would be given up but there are two major reasons I would argue for this model of security over most others.
One benefit of having free access to someone’s computer is that it is less invasive than interrogation of a person. Currently, computers are everything from our diaries, our little black books and ways to live out our fantasy. However, what is on our computers is what we choose to put on there. Scanning someone’s computer for illegal doings is much less invasive than watching someone’s everyone move on CCTV. It is simply a scan of the computer for illegal information. If it was constant monitoring like in Minority Report more problems can be preemptive stopped. This is much better than the solution posed in George Orwell’s 1984 using the ever watching “telescreen”. You are feeding information in, they are not taking information from you. As it’s pointed out in CBC Spark PodCast entitled Post-Privacy, advertisers are able to follow every click of the mouse, and this is to sell stuff. Surely this could be more effective in the prevention of crime.
Secondly, computer monitoring it becomes a deterrent. It seems with the internet that some people do not realize there are consequences to posting things. The convicted pedophile who posted children pornography with his face blurred out (it was later un-blurred and he was arrested). As mentioned in the article by Stephen Wood and David Graham, monitoring of personal computers incorporates Foucault’s Panoptican, so not necessarily everyone’s computer should be monitored, but there might be the chance it could be.
The important part when it comes to monitoring is that clear limits and boundaries need to be set. It is a contentious issue because there are people who believe in the anarchic structure of the internet but there are also those who want everything watched all the time. Liberties and freedoms should not be given up, but committing a crime, be it online or offline, is not a liberty or a freedom.
There should be freedom to do anything legal online, however online and RL are not binaries of each other, they are connected to each other by computers. Doing something online is similar to doing things in public and should be available to be monitored. This is an excellent way to be preemptive when stopping crimes. If it’s possible you will get caught because people have jobs watching out specifically for those crimes, chances are most smart people will not even attempt that. Canada’s Privacy Commissioner, Jennifer Stoddart says in Post-Privacy that “there’s nothing that can’t be tracked.” Which is a concern to Canadians and I am one of those when it comes to trying to sell me something. If it comes to thwarting exploitation of children or some other vile crime, well then I do not mind the concept if you are not doing anything wrong, then you have nothing to worry about.