Counting Surveillance Cameras
I counted 24 surveillance cameras on my way to school, even though I knew I had missed many more. Mostly I didn't know where to look or how to spot the different surveillance cameras as this was not a usual habit of mine to do. Taking pictures of the cameras made me feel awkward and I got a lot of looks by people who thought I was up to something.
Philip Agre's Surveillance and Capture: Two modes of Privacy
Agre talks about two models of privacy; the surveillance model and the capture model. The surveillance model is more prevalent, using the metaphor of "big brother" and the Panopticon. The capture model is built upon linguistic metaphors and deliberately reorganizes industrial work activities in order to allow computer tracking in real time.
Agre argues that the vast majority of existing literature focuses on the surveillance model, disregarding alternatives such as the capture model. While the literature is not wrong, we should be aware of the different but equally important alternative models. We need to shift our fear of privacy from just the visual metaphor of being watched, to the idea that we may also be giving up our individual and collective power in deciding our very own actions. The capture model can be further broken down into two uses: the epistemological data (acquiring the data) and ontological data (modeling the reality it reflects).
Agre talks about how technological systems need to involve human intervention creating this cycle that maintains the correspondence between the representation and reality. The idea of a "grammar of actions" that is continuously shaped by our interactions with technology, creates this all knowing entity.
We have entered a period of "ubiquitous computing" where the distinction of tracking humans versus physical objects is blurred and misleading. This ubiquitous presence produces fear to the point of oppression.
While I agree with many of Agre's points, I think at our current time, the idea of the capture model has actually caught up to if not surpassed the surveillance model. Currently we are very aware of how each click or search becomes some kind of ingrained data point (as we found out this week looking at our own Facebook data). What I would have been more interested in learning more from Agre is the moral and ethical implications of privacy that the capture model implicates and how governments can legally implement laws in favor of the protection of privacy.
I created Facebook when I was 15 years old and have had it ever since. The data file I downloaded from Facebook was 748 MB big, 735,925,888 bytes. That's 11 years worth of data that Facebook has, representing a certain online representation of me. Looking through the many eerily organized folders and subfolders of data collected about my many social interactions was really unsettling. It had saved every single photo I had ever uploaded in an album or posted in a message. It didn't just collect data on who I was friends with, but also removed and rejected friend requests. What really freaked me out the most was that it also collected every single message I had ever sent to anyone on Facebook. This included audio and photo files that were sent within the messages as well. This is unsettling because we are usually under the impression that when we send messages, it is private, but this organized record of every message with every person makes you realize this privacy is assumed.
I do not use Facebook anymore and only keep it because my friends still use it for group messaging and creating events. I have always found the problem of sacrificing social ability for privacy to be difficult and think that is what makes Facebook so powerful, is the network effect it has. Most people I know hate Facebook's misuse of privacy and wish to delete it, but keep it for the same reasons I do.