Panopticon, pictures of surveillance cameras


During the past several years there was a significant increase in closed circuit television ans surveillance cameras in public space. Cameras pop up from outer walls, the top of ATM machines or traffic lights, capturing every move and submitting them to police officers and private security guards. Effectiveness of these devices in reducing crime is quite dubious, and cases of misuse by public and
private authorities have raised serious concerns in video monitoring in public space. The chance to discussing about this issue through Web 2.0 procedures is available on Flickr with a project called Panopticon: Pictures of Surveillance Cameras. Clearly, public space video surveillance represents a personal privacy intrusion. Moreover, there are uncertainties about who owns the tapes and who has the right to see them. Many cameras monitoring public space are privately owned. Banks, office buildings, and department stores are all routinely engaged in continuous video monitoring of their facilities and of any adjacent public space. Recordings are privately owned, and may be stored, broadcasted, or sold without permission, disclosure, or any engagement of the people involved. Similarly, video footage captured by police may be considered part of the ‘public record,’ so available to individuals, companies, and government agencies needs. At best, CCTV seems not to reduce crime, but merely to divert it to other areas. “If you’ve done nothing wrong, you don’t have anything to hide” is a standard CCTV defense. And the logical consequence is that only bad people have secrets, therefore, to prove you are good, the police/government should know everything. But, everybody has the personal privacy rights. That’s why The Institute for Applied Autonomy (IAA), a technology research and development collective focused on the individual and collective self-determination, developed iSee, a web-based application charting the locations of closed-circuit television surveillance cameras in urban environments, to avoid them as much as people can and calculating alternative pedestrian itineraries. The intent of these projects is obviously provocative. However, it shows a trend in Web 2.0 related to a still unresolved issue: are we free prisoners in a Panopticon global cage?

Valentina Culatti