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Surveillance, Technology and Society

Today, the development of modern technologies opens larger opportunities for the enhancement of surveillance. At first glance, the enhancement of surveillance may be beneficial because it contributes to the enhancement of the public safety. On the other hand, the development of effective technologies and surveillance system has already managed to create conditions for the effective and permanent surveillance.

However, such surveillance raises a number of ethical as well as legal issues, such as the violation of the privacy rights, while the protection of ethical issues related to the use of information collected in the course of surveillance. In such a way, the enhancement of surveillance systems with the help of modern technologies can have both positive and negative effects but surveillance keeps progressing and new technologies are still introduced in the society. However, a considerable part of the society opposes to the introduction of new technologies in surveillance because they may provoke the violation of their privacy rights and total surveillance may be just offensive for many people. In such a situation, the development of new surveillance systems and technologies should take into consideration needs of the society and to protect individuals from the violation of their rights and existing ethical norms and standards.

In actuality, the development of modern technologies facilitates surveillance consistently. Moreover, modern technologies can make surveillance virtually unnoticeable. As a result, the development of modern technologies facilitates the use of technologies can make surveillance more effective in terms of conducting surveillance with the help of new technologies. In such a way, the surveillance can be conducted secretly.

At this point, it is important to place emphasis on the fact that the surveillance may be conducted secretly but such surveillance is normally conducted by secret services. In such a way, secret services may use surveillance to collect important information. At the same time, the public cannot fully control the surveillance conducted secretly, although such surveillance may be strategically important. For instance, secret services may need to conduct surveillance to protect the public from terror attacks or serious crimes. Naturally, open surveillance can lead to the failure of anti-terrorist operations.

Open surveillance is particularly effective for the maintenance of the public safety and prevention of crimes. People are aware of the open surveillance and they may act more carefully, when they are aware of the fact that they are being surveyed. At this point, it is important to dwell upon reasons for the enhancement of surveillance, which are diverse as are threats the public safety may face today. In fact, new technologies improve the effectiveness of surveillance. Obviously, today, new technologies have expanded the scope of surveillance consistently. Basically, it is possible to conduct surveillance covering large territory and survey specific individuals or areas. In fact, it is possible to collect detailed information on surveyed object to the extent that a target area or individual may be permanently under the control of surveying agency or individuals.

In fact, today, many large public places are surveyed permanently. Law enforcement agencies use the surveillance to maintain the control over the public safety and to prevent risks of the violation of the public order. In such a way, law enforcement agencies can use surveillance to identify criminal behavior. New technologies help to conduct surveillance but often surveillance is conducted to prevent criminal activities. For instance, surveillance may be used to prevent shoplifting. In such a context, surveillance is quite effective, while new technologies make surveillance highly effective.

Today, law enforcement agencies use new technologies to enhance surveillance justifying such policy by public concerns. Law enforcement agencies provide the society with the high level of security due to the effective control over actions of suspicious individuals with the help of new technologies. In actuality, the improvement and enhancement of surveillance can help to decrease the risk of terrorism. In such a way, the enhancement of surveillance can be beneficial for the society. In fact, the society can benefit due to the higher level of public safety.

In addition, the effective surveillance can protect private property and decrease crime rates. In fact, surveillance contributes to the permanent surveillance that help law enforcement agencies and security services to identify illegal activities and to stop offenders immediately. The faster law enforcement agencies identify illegal activities the faster they may respond and stop such activities. In such a context, the improvement of surveillance with the help of new technologies is beneficial for the society.

In addition, surveillance discourages illegal activities. If people are conscious that they are being surveyed, they act more responsibly and are less inclined to deviant, anti-social behavior. Therefore, surveillance contributes to the increase of the discipline and public order. Many studies (Foster, 2011) reveal the fact that people are less likely to commit offensive actions or crimes, if they are aware of the fact of being surveyed. Obviously, law enforcement agencies have larger opportunities for detaining offenders using contemporary surveillance systems that use modern technologies. For instance, modern technologies allow transferring information fast. Therefore, if the information about a crime and a suspect is conveyed throughout the network of law enforcement agencies, they can use existing surveillance systems to track and to find the suspect. As soon as they find the suspect, they can detain him or her. This is actually what surveillance is supposed to serve to because, in such a way, surveillance enhances the public safety. Therefore, surveillance may be beneficial for the society.

In fact, expected positive effects of surveillance mentioned above contributed to the fast introduction of new surveillance systems using advanced technologies. However, the fast growth of surveillance system resulted in the situation, when people feel being constantly surveyed. In such a situation, the modern society turns out to be at the point, when the enhancement of surveillance can have negative effects and raise a number of problems. What is meant here is the fact that people are constantly surveyed. At this point, it is important to place emphasis on the fact that people are under permanent surveillance but they do not give their consent on being surveyed and that is the problem not only in ethical but also in legal terms. Basically, law enforcement agencies and other agencies using surveillance justify their policy by public safety concerns, while they conduct surveillance in public places that seems to protect the privacy of people. However, people still may feel uncomfortable, when they are surveyed but law enforcement agencies do not care about it they just use surveillance technologies and introduce new ones to make surveillance more effective, to survey further and to get more information about surveyed subjects. Therefore, the risk of the uncontrollable growth of surveillance system becomes real.

However, it is difficult to control surveillance, especially, when advanced technologies are used. Modern technologies allow using surveillance when surveyed people may be unaware of the fact that they are surveyed. As it has been already mentioned above, such technique is secret surveillance. Basically, secret surveillance may be effective in anti-terrorist operations, for instance, but the question arises, whether law enforcement agencies and other agencies using surveillance systems conduct their operations ethically. What is meant here is the fact that the society may have limited information about surveillance conducted by law enforcement agencies. For instance, people may be surveyed, when they do not know about it, even if they are not criminals, or suspects, or terrorists, or whatever, Law enforcement services may collect information about surveyed people. In such a situation, the risk of information breaches arises because even law enforcement agencies are vulnerable to this problem. Therefore, people, who were subjects to surveillance, may face considerable problems if their private information leaks. Effects of such information breaches may be disastrous for professional as well as personal life of individuals.

In such a context, the surveillance can put under a threat the privacy of individuals. People are under the surveillance and they do not actually have options to choose either to be under surveillance or not. They are just surveyed without any alternatives. Moreover, they do not give their consent on being surveyed. Instead, law enforcement agencies and other agencies conduct surveillance using advanced technologies justifying their policies by the public safety concerns. However, they do not care about the privacy of individuals because, being under the permanent surveillance, people have less time and space for their private life. Taking into consideration the fact that surveillance is often conducted without consent of individuals, they become limited in their basic rights and liberties, such as the right to privacy or free movement. For instance, if people are not willing to be surveyed, they have to avoid places, where surveillance is conducted that apparently limit the freedom of their movement. In fact, people feel uncomfortable, while their rights are violated.

On the other hand, the improvement of surveillance increases control over potentially dangerous population, such as recidivists, criminals, and others. However, this argument is inconsistent for opponents of spreading surveillance (Garfinkel, 2000), who argue that surveillance enhances the public safety but it also ruins democracy and privacy because people are not free, when they are under permanent surveillance. What is meant here is the fact that surveillance raises the legal problem of the violation of privacy right as well as other rights and liberties.

Along with legal problems, the introduction of extensive surveillance raises a number of ethical problems, such as the problem of balancing the control over the behavior of individuals and individual privacy. In fact, modern technologies that can make surveillance unnoticeable make surveillance the matter of ethical responsibility of those, who conduct surveillance. What is meant here is the fact that law enforcement agencies and individuals conducting surveillance should be ethically responsible because, if they are not, they may use surveillance for their benefits. For instance, they may use surveillance in the illegal way to collect information about certain individuals and misuse this information to discredit these individuals, for instance, or just to blackmail them.

In addition, the enhancement of surveillance technology and the expansion of surveillance may be offensive for individuals. People are not criminals but, if they are surveyed, they feel that, a priori, they are treated as potential offenders. The introduction of surveillance without consent of individuals makes them offenders a priori because law enforcement agencies and other agencies introducing surveillance technology and systems stand on the ground that some individuals may be offenders. For instance, if a street is surveyed, then law enforcement agencies surveying all the people going down the street consider them to be potential offenders, even though none of the people in the street have ever committed a crime. In such a context, surveillance is offensive for human dignity, while new technologies make surveillance even more effective and less limited or controlled.

Furthermore, some specialists (Haggerty and Samatas, 2010) warn against the impact of the government and secret services, which can increase because of the expansion of surveillance and introduction of new surveillance technologies. To put it more precisely, the government can use surveillance to keep the society under control through the use of law enforcement agencies. However, today, such a possibility is rather hypothetical than real, i.e. the government still cannot control citizens. However, new technologies and surveillance can enhance the control of the government over the society because collecting information through surveillance government agencies can misuse this information to manipulate with the public opinion and shape the public opinion according to needs of the ruling political or economic elite.

In such a context, it is important to identify possible solutions to prevent problems and negative effects of the enhancement of surveillance with the help of new technologies. In actuality, the introduction of new technologies provides larger opportunities for surveillance. In such a situation, the effective regulation of surveillance technology may help to put under control the process of surveillance too. In fact, technologies used for surveillance may be used for monitoring their application for surveillance purposes. For instance, certain technologies used in surveillance should be licensed and provided for specific agencies. In addition, the application of surveillance by law enforcement agencies should be admitted by courts. Otherwise, the secret surveillance conducted by law enforcement agencies would be illegal and, therefore, banned. This means that law enforcement agencies should obtain the permission of the court before they conduct secret surveillance, for instance. In such a way, the society will be able to enhance the control over technology and surveillance.

Furthermore, the limitation of surveillance may help to ensure the protection of the right of citizens to privacy. In this respect, the introduction of legal restrictions on surveillance may help to protect the right of individuals to privacy. For instance, surveillance area may be limited to certain public places and strategically important places, such as airports. Such restrictions on surveillance will help to enhance the public control over surveillance and decrease the scope of surveillance. In actuality, the scope of surveillance is considerable over-exaggerated and the modern society suffers from the excessive surveillance. The limitation of areas, where surveillance may be conducted will provide the society with clear rules, where the privacy right of citizens is protected from any surveillance and where any surveillance will be illegal.

Obviously, the surveillance should be under the public control, while the separation of power should enhance the mutual control of different branches of power to prevent the risk of misusing of surveillance and advanced surveillance technologies by state agencies, including law enforcement agencies. Therefore, the enhancement of the public control over surveillance will need considerable legislative changes because rules of surveillance should be accurately regulated. In fact, surveillance and transparency are antagonistic concepts, when surveillance is supposed to be transparent. In this regard, the modern society has to change this antagonism and to make modern surveillance systems more transparent and, therefore, more controllable.

Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is important to place emphasis on the fact that contemporary technology boosted the development of surveillance. Surveillance became an integral part of the life of the contemporary society. People can hardly imagine their life without being surveyed. However, today, surveillance is excessive. Therefore, the society needs to enhance its control over surveillance and protect rights of individuals to privacy. On the one hand, surveillance and new technologies bring numerous benefits as they enhance the public safety, decrease crime rates, and prevent such threats as a threat of terror attack. On the other hand, surveillance often affects privacy of individuals, while information breaches may have a destructive impact on professional and personal life of individuals. In such a situation, the enhancement of the public control over surveillance and related technologies is essential. Licensing technology used in surveillance may help to control it, while the limitation of areas and scope of surveillance will help to limit surveillance and to protect individuals from being surveyed as well as their right to privacy.


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