Privacy In America Essay

Privacy In America Essay-48
We happily share our lives on Facebook, but are outraged when we read about their scheme to manipulate our emotions.“Now that the experiment is public,” Forbes reported, “people’s mood about the study itself would best be described as ‘disturbed.’” Yet we often live in a kind of surveillance denial, assuming it’s not a problem if we’re not doing anything wrong, or that it’s only a concern in other countries.

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Social psychologists looking at workplace surveillance have found ample evidence that even the threat of surveillance is enough to change behavior, making workers “follow rules more carefully and act more subservient,” as well as experiencing greater stress, a loss of personal control, and “a decreased sense of procedural justice.” It’s harder to work when you know a camera is perched over your shoulder and productivity software is analyzing your keystrokes for maximum efficiency.

Employers might like such productivity metrics, but rarely consider the cost to workers who feel like they have no place to hide. In this sense, surveillance can add an emotional charge to an existing atmosphere: It may even channel our chaotic energies into officially approved channels with names like vigilance, dread, fear, relief, certainty, permanence, compliance, consumption, adding a layer of meaning to the social scene that we can feel in our gut or on the back of our neck.

We might want a smart refrigerator to order milk when we run out, but might not want the Internet of Things to listen to everything in our “smart home,” especially when we have a family crisis unfolding, such as a teenager dealing with drug addiction or a pregnancy scare.

We might like taking nature photos with our own small drone, but wince when laws don’t prevent a creepy neighbor from flying his drone over our teenager’s backyard pool party.

Even if some aspects of surveillance culture are entertaining and even humane, from the benign side of social media to the well-intentioned camera connecting us to an elderly relative, too often we are faced with something much more controlling, if not outright manipulative.

In its harsher forms, surveillance is nothing more than cold prodding to suss out our commercial prospects, to determine if we’re a potential asset or liability to some corporation, alternating with the even colder scrutiny of the state to see if we’re doing what we’re told.

The question about which between the two should be prioritized is not relevant compared to the effects either of the alternatives will have in the lives of citizens.

The issue is complicated further by the sensitive nature of both national security and individual privacy.

It’s not pleasant if you stop to consider what surveillance does to our bodies and souls, not to mention the healthy functioning of a democracy.

All I’m suggesting is that we stop and think about it.


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