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From Barnes & NobleSurveillance is becoming more of a way of life in the world; nannycams, mallcams, and streetcams are being installed everywhere. But what about presidentialcams, policecams, and mayorcams? David Brin's The Transparent Society argues for surveillance on both sides of the world's power balance.
Brin acknowledges that privacy, as we know it, is being slowly eaten away day by day. Entire cities are falling under the watch of surveillance cameras; "nanny monitors" that allow parents to keep an eye on the people who are watching their children are becoming more common in households with children. However, instead of calling for this surveillance to be clamped down upon, he argues for a more open society from both sides -- one where those in power would be required to adhere to the same "openness" standards as their constituents, where the police are monitored as well as monitoring.
The main reasoning behind Brin's thesis? Technology. No matter what attempts to cloak her identity a person might attempt, there's always a more precise camera, a stronger software program, a new way of decryption lurking in the shadows, ready to expose her secrets. But concentrating too much "surveillance power" in the hands of ruling powers or authority might result in abuses of that power. Allowing for a transparent web of openness, Brin argues, will instead result in a new standard of openness, one where the private matters of others can become more mundane, while their behavior is held to a higher standard of accountability.
It's a fascinating concept, one that requires society to change a fundamental way of thinking about the concept of privacy and individuality. Brin's reasoning is particularly intriguing given some of the realities of today's society, where the more lurid private affairs of public figures can become endlessly rehashed front-page fodder; his concept of allowing access to everyone's day-to-day affairs could cause one to foresee a future in which gossip isn't the prized commodity it is now, where society would adhere to an "open standard" of behavior -- after all, Big Brother might not be watching, but Tall Neighbor might very well be.