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The topic of discussion in this paper is to determine whether the spread of various surveillance technologies threaten privacy or not. It is known that technology leads to the development of gadgets that help in daily human operation procedures. In this process, there are various challenges that people or citizens may face while implementing such applications. A challenge is privacy issues, which arise because of surveillance programs. The fact is that surveillance is systematic monitoring or investigation of all actions and communication of a person or persons. Surveillance is a wide field, which includes closed circuit TV cameras, telephone bagging, accessing electronic database and even proximity cards (Regan 76).

The issue of surveillance is controversial, because it brings out two arguments based on privacy. While one side argues that it does not warrant any privacy, the other school of thought argues that it enhances security for people (Brands 106). Security is one of the benefits that have been embraced. However, there are other negative impacts on technology. People would always think of privacy as being right. Unfortunately, this confuses, because a distinction between legal rights and moral rights is not made. Privacy has got several dimensions, namely personal behavior privacy, individual privacy, personal communication privacy and privacy of any personal data. This brings out controversies at the privacy level, when certain surveillance methods are used to get information from the public.

Sources to be examined in relation to the topic include academic journals, for instance, the International Journal of Monitoring and Surveillance Research (IJMSTR), which highlights information about surveillance systems; and information from the U.S. Department of Justice White Paper on NSA Legal Authorities. Legal authorities support the “activities of the National Security Agency described by the President.” This source discusses the functional implication of the Patriot Act at the user level. The scholarly article was actually located through the EBSCO host by the use of the keyword “Boolean”, such named as the Patriot Act and internet and privacy. The magazine article on the impact of surveillance for internet users is a contributing writing that reflects more information on the privacy issues. In addition, Gavison with his journal named ‘Privacy and the Limits of Law’, Yale Law Journal, also helps in this analysis.

The first side of the argument has claimed that surveillance interferes with privacy. This is because, when one is observed by a hidden CCTV camera, privacy is not guaranteed in any way. In the magazine article named ‘Privacy and the Limits of Law’, the author Ruth Gavison has pointed out that perfect privacy is impossible to be achieved most of the times with the emerging technologies in the world. The rapid loss of privacy is because individuals have become subjects of attention to other persons, the government or organizations interested. One can be monitored secretly on whatever activity is done without his knowledge or not being informed of the process. Organizations may fix the CCTV cameras at the work place, which actually undermine privacy of the employee most of the times he or she is in premises. Garison continued pointing out that it is “true whether the intension is conscious and inadvertent or purposeful” (Garrison 432). Because of this, if people take privacy as an essential element of the democratic society, which can foster and encourage the moral autonomy of all citizens, people must reflect upon infringements, which take place in our societies in general (Gavison 405).

Surveillance advancements in more complex technologies and continuous developments more experienced in the design of database coupled with the inherent society interest to know more about other people has made it more impossible to have privacy today. These technologies have enhanced even information storage, and one can access other personal details where it is not permitted. The government and other market forces have even made it impossible to have privacy in most cases without all people having a similar minimum privacy level (Regan 213). In addition to the collective privacy concept, Priscilla Regan has emphasized that the nature of relationships that generates information and records has been changing, thus, it is very hard to define the relationships as true voluntary (Regan 229).

The popular press view of the surveillance dictates that in a modern state, people virtually have their data in a digital form, because they have to work, open bank accounts, pay taxes, have driving licenses and other documents, hence, it is possible to have this personal information leak. Data are constructed and recorded within a very short time to suit motives of people with interest. As a part of the routine surveillance, people are normally asked to identify themselves in order to access required service in some places. This is still a privacy issue, because some information is personal.

Developments in information and communication technology have enhanced data gathering, transmission and exchange in both the national and international network at large. There have been electronic exchanges across borders and globally, which have magnified information on any small issues in any part of the world. Other developments in digital computing enable faster information processing and accessibility any time within and across borders. The privacy of information is not guaranteed with all these technological developments (Simitis 102).

This is a very clear problem, because in an electronic environment, it is very hard to distinguish between a public place and a private one. This is because some CCTV cameras are fixed right at entertainment places or in parks, which makes persons lack privacy. The help of focusing digital cameras facilitates the whole process of information and image reflection. This has threatened privacy, because it has several dimensions, namely privacy of an individual, personal behavior, personal communication and lastly personal data. All these may be threatened at any time, based on the type of surveillance. For instance, digital video electronics is very sophisticated, because it can employ the QUAD recording system, whereby four separate camera images are compressed into a single frame (Regan 65). This enables the observer to see four views on the screen and record them on a video cassette recorder (VCR). This process ensures detailed surveillance enabling the securities to observe everything happening in any given place. Privacy is compromised at this point, because monitoring takes place without a notice to persons.

According to the article entitled ‘Reviewing Privacy in the Information Society’ by the scholar Simitis, the policy on controlling crime is fast-factoring in the use of CCTV, which, on the other hand, is a privacy threat to the public (Simitis 72). A situation that has actually forced Spiros Simitis to make a conclusion that surveillance has lost an exceptional character and become a routine practice (Simitis 210). This kind of demand for personal information in all perspectives is mainly used to enforce behavior standards. This increases the risk of labeling of individuals through the magnification of errors, manipulative tendencies, strengthening social control and even threatening the fabric of democracy.

The popular press states that through surveillance, there is an identification crisis. Identification is mainly associating data with a specific individual. This shows the lack of privacy, because the physical relation of the information based on strong monitoring and detection process threatens the privacy level of a person. Since surveillance anyway intrudes and reveals information, it is very possible to create harm to a person, because of the lack of privacy (Regan 78).

According to the European Convention on Human Rights, individuals have the right to privacy, and in cases whereby it is threatened, a person is entitled to respect private and family life and that there shall be no any interference by the public authority infringing the rights of an individual (U.S. Department of Justice 6). There must be legal regulation to govern the use of electronic surveillance by the police in regard to the protection privacy. Based on the scholar’s argument on the status of surveillance, Kate Martin from the Centre for National Security Studies says that the continuous use of spy satellites in monitoring activities of citizens is a way of laying a foundationfor a police state or acts of totalitarianism. This shows that there is a lack of freedom in most places, and people develop fear for uncommitted crimes.

The other side of arguments states that the spread of surveillance caused by technological advancements does not interfere with privacy. The basis of arguments is just to fight for intelligence information in order to enhance national security. Security becomes a benchmark for this side of the debate. According to the article called ‘State Surveillance and the Right to Privacy’ by Taylor, he stated that surveillance through digital machines, that is, CCTV cameras, is mainly a crime detection tool (Brands 6). This is because it has been seen working in that capacity in various instances. He added that CCTV has been seen in most places as a fashionable solution to many issues, pertaining human behavior (Brands 7). This could be for political or social reasons. There is confirmation that the right to public privacy is relatively weak as compared to crime prevention as an asocial objective of the surveillance process. This takes place, when there is specifically mass surveillance in public places because the prevention of crime measures is necessary before any mischief has been carried out.

Many supporters of this kind of surveillance     believe that the tools help in protecting the society from any terrorist attacks and other criminals. According to the US Security Agency, the national intelligence service has got authority to tap information through surveillance by any means (U.S. Department of Justice 2). This move is to eliminate terrorism acts that threaten the stability of the nation. Serious security measures are taken into consideration, since both internal and border security is a problem not only for the USA, but also for other countries at large. These are calls for proper surveillance to prevent such ill motives (U.S Department of Justice 4).

According to the USA administration and the National Security Agency, “the exception on the requirement of the normal warrant exists when the main purpose of the designed surveillance is to prevent any attack that may come from a foreign threat” (U.S. Department of Justice 3). When both target persons are deemed to be domestic, then there is an exception on warrantless surveillance. The surveillance through wiretapping and other means helps in tracking terrorists. Terrorists are tracked down through this technology of wiretapping and this has resulted in some benefits for the country, even though privacy challenges are still a problem. This class also states that there are no changes that can be made about it, and it is better for the population to become accustomed to having no privacy (Brands 72). A scholar at Sun Microsystems the CEO, Scott McNealy, stated that people “have zero privacy anyway and they should get over it.” This class does not believe in privacy, hence, the main driving factor is security enhancement (Brands 47).

There is another contribution on the same on the part of the popular press that point, “if you are not doing something wrong then you do not have anything to fear” (Brands 96). This claims that any individual, who is engaged in unlawful activities, does not have any legitimate justification for privacy. However, those, who follow the law, find it very easy, because the surveillance process does not affect them in any way. Electronic surveillance has got psychological effects, and this makes such scholars as Michael Foucault believe that apart from the identification of people doing wrong undesirable acts, surveillance helps to create a feeling of being watched, hence, they definitely become self-policing citizens (Brands 92). This effect normally helps the state to control the population without involving aggressive and physical force. Physical force is very problematic in general (Brands 124).


Based on the view of the popular press and scholarly articles, there is a little difference in their arguments, since both share the same ideology at the privacy level. The academic point of view provides that the job of an academic is to interpret the world and understand events, as they unfold, but not to change it in any way. Acknowledging this stand, they have just given strengths and reasons for and against the debate. Some argued in support of privacy, while others pointed out that surveillance was just encroaching into personal lives of individuals.

The principle of the scholarly debate is that data should be processed on a lawful and fair ground. The main objective reflecting this is that CCTV cameras are to be operated legitimately to facilitate prevention and crime detection (Brands 90). The use of the language is strong for scholars, according to their contributions. For instance, stating that one should not have anything to fear, unless there is an ulterior motive, when they are not ill-intentioned.

The popular press is very categorical in making its observation on surveillance. There is a great opposition, because in most instances, they project it as a threat to privacy. They take the surveillance process as a totalitarianism kind of the administration system that does not give the public some space to interact freely. Freedom is limited in the sense that people are watched all the time through CCTV cameras, which are installed in all public and private places.

The relation of the topic to the course theme is prominent. As collective, most populations in many countries have adopted the emerging technology, especially in the surveillance process. Surveillance helps to protect people of a given state in terms of fighting terrorism acts. In this era of big governments and even large corporations, technologies have been developing rapidly, and therefore there is the need to curb any vice that may come with it. The electronic surveillance is a wide topic that involves both data communication, physical surveillance through closed electronic circuit cameras and other telecommunication sources, including computer data, the internet and mobile phone communication tapping. This helps to provide sufficient information for ensuring that security measures are taken appropriately. The data surveillance can be automated in order to get the required information any time. Surveillance does not allow the emission of light, since circuits are advanced. This ensures that people under observation do not detect what is happening and instead concentrate on their activities. The information tapped or presented can be used to fight suspecting terrorists.

The topic is very useful in relation to the theme presented. There are technological solutions that help to assist the implementation of data and privacy provisions in the global network. The major advantage of the technology in regard with surveillance includes the collection of economic information. Through surveillance, there is also a need for both social and political policy decisions, which ensure that privacy is not compromised, but surveillance is done in the most professional way (Regan 29).

The professional way of undertaking surveillance will not be conspicuously considered as a threat to personal privacy at all levels (Regan 210). However, when government agencies apply them in a way not understandable to the public, then they threaten privacy. For instance, political groups opposing government policies may consider that the surveillance on their movements may hinder their political statements and other pending development programs. The surveillance process is important, since it is also a way of embracing technology and applying knowledge effectively. The terrorism problem is a global problem and all nations have been generally putting up measures to ensure that there is no securities gap that may result into problems.

The major discrepancy between the popular press and academic sources is not very distinctive. However, they both help to analyze the very technological development that facilitates fighting crime. Privacy policies help to justify the fact that there is a need to protect personal privacy in the public (Gavison 80). The concept of community policing is incorporated, because people will be able to adjust their actions, when they actually know that they are under surveillance. There are technologies in terms of data communication, the Internet, computer applications and the surveillance in the form of CCTV cameras.


The privacy debate has called for both scholars and the popular press to take on the surveillance program in the fast-growing technological world. Technology helps to achieve and solve issues. People are concerned with the level of privacy, when intelligence information is required by the government. Most states have adopted the surveillance program to help to gather information from place to place, public and private packs. Business enterprises have got surveillance mechanisms that help to reinforce security issues. Data collection, all relevant telecommunication aspects and wiretapping are the means of implementing the process. There are two points of view, by people because they don’t have a common take on the surveillance process. One side supports surveillance, while the other refutes its use basically because of the privacy threat, which it has on the population.

In conclusion, from the personal analysis it can be drawn that the value of privacy has been reduced with time because of numerous communication processes in place. Being responsible collective citizens, we have adopted the use of technology in various fields. This includes the use of the internet, computer data processing, the use of Facebook and other social media. The communication through mobile phones and other gadgets will always help the intelligence department to ensure that crimes and acts of terrorism are eliminated once and for ever. As presented by scholars and the popular press, the law on the protection of personal privacy may be overlooked, when there is a serious need to gather information to maintain national security. Finally, technology has been also undergoing a continuous improvement; hence, more complex ways of detecting threats to the nation will be made within time.

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