contributed articles doi: 10.1145/ 1743546.1743582 vision of a society monitored by cameras by Jan Kietzmann and Ian Angell and computers is quickly becoming a reality; and he wouldn’t be amazed thatPanopticon the most recent generation of cameras can also reprimand offenders in a child’s voice broadcast over loudspeakers.3 These location-specific technolo-Revisited gies, embedded into the fabric of so- cial life, allow uniformed officials who gaze at screens to ‘monitor’ and judge whether or not acts are antisocial. But of course such evidence can at best help identify suspects after the event, as was the case in London’s 2005 bombing, JeremyT h e year is 1787. Ut i li tari an ph i l os op h e r and the abduction and murder in 1993 of two-year old Jamie Bulger in Liver-Bentham publishes his ideas for a panopticon, a pool. A recent report into the London’squite brilliant merger of architectural design with an surveillance network claimed that onlyunderstanding of human behavior. This is a prison one crime is solved by each 1,000 CCTV cameras.2 More importantly, the tech-requiring minimal supervision. It is circular in cross- nology does not stop these acts in fla-section. Cells are placed on the circumference, stacked grante delicto. Bad-deeds still happen.floor upon floor, with the doors facing a guard tower To be consistent with the panopticon concept, the state therefore still needsat the centre. That tower is designed so that a lone to instill the belief in the populationguard can see every point of the prison from behind a that the very presence of monitoring artifacts means the virtual attendancemesh screen – he can see the prisoners, each uniquely of authority: that being caught red-identified, but they can’t see him. Not knowing if they handed on camera undoubtedly leadsare being watched, but having to assume that they to punishment and perhaps prison sentences. The ability to watch antiso-are, the prisoners adjust their behavior. At regular cial behavior, and the presence of suchintervals, each prisoner is relocated according to his dedicated technologies, should there- fore positively direct social behavior.overall record of discipline – good behavior is rewarded, The problem is that using surveil-bad conduct punished. Ergo, a highly efficient and lance technology involves both equip-cost effective method for controlling sociopaths, and ping every dark corner with a CCTV camera, and manning a remote monitorthereby regulating the prison. with a ‘warm body’ city official who will Fast-forward to the first decade of the 21 century, watch the happenings from afar. CCTV is not a cost-sensitive approach, and asand Closed Circuit Television (CCTV). The panopticon David Davis MP, the former U.K. Shad-is no longer just a concept for prisons. Manhattan’s ow Home Secretary comments, it “leadsChinatown has seen an increase from 13 to 600 to massive expense and minimum effec- tiveness.”10 As a result, authorities have‘security’ cameras since 1998.4 Britain alone has 20% privatized some of these duties: privateof the world’s CCTV cameras, which watch traffic, parking attendants assign tickets; and citizens armed with city-licensed radarshoppers, and people walking down the street, all on guns hunt speeders for extra incomethe lookout for sociopathic acts. British subjects going (and excitement) during retirement.8about their ordinary lives can expect to be captured Of course, the outsourcing of such government services is still a far cryon camera 300 times a day, every day. George Orwell from a panopticon; it is solely exercis-would have been proud and horrified to see that his ing policing but in a different form. Ju n e 2 0 1 0 | vo l. 53 | n o. 6 | c om m u n ic at ion s of t h e acm 135
contributed articles Nevertheless, to a certain extent the has no choice: it is impossible to return geted spam; tax audits of individuals authorities have already turned to the an item for a refund without releasing who, according to their loyalty cards, cost-effective lessons of the panopti- name, address and telephone number. live beyond their means; or identity con. Accordingly, fake CCTV cameras Subsequently, databases mine the pa- theft based on individuals’ electronic and mock-ups of speed traps are set per trails of everyone’s lives, includ- profiles. Consequently, personal in- up, and even cardboard billboards of ing all ‘voluntarily’ provided pieces of formation and its free disclosure is police cruisers are mounted to the rails personal information as well as data becoming a primary concern for many of bridges over highways, in the hope from previously paper-based records citizens. Increasingly, the actual inves- of creating a similar reaction to seeing that have been turned into electronic tigative power and reach of second gen- real cameras, traps and cars. However, records (such as health records). eration systems is becoming obvious to in the resulting ‘climate of suspicion,’ The combination of such private the general public. Privacy advocates such replicas can lead, paradoxically, information with previously cumber- and civil liberty groups are no longer to increased accident rates, and even some-to-obtain public details (regard- the only ones alarmed. As the per- higher speeds once drivers spot the ing lawsuits, liens, and so on) yields ceived drawbacks start to outweigh the dummies. ‘Criminals’ are quick to money-spinning profiles that can be re- benefits, the various promises are los- identify real cameras from the fake, or purposed and sold on. Unforeseen by ing their appeal for the citizen. Weary they simply displace their ‘business’ the unsuspecting population at large, consumers start to resent the constant to locations that lack obvious threats. perhaps individuals’ behavioral data is demand for personal data, and even Clearly, such attempts can create more the long-awaited panacea for the prob- the ordinary homemaker begins to pay problems than they solve. lems of all sorts of secondary users. only with cash and provides fake names However, that was only the first gen- Insurance brokers and credit bureaux, or telephone numbers for in-store re- eration panopticon, which in order to that were previously crippled by the non- bates or returns. The effectiveness of direct social behavior, represented a availability of such data, and employ- the system is once again diminished. reactive approach by authority to dis- ers who would like to learn more about Similar to the previous generation, obedience, and focused on punish- their potential employees’ physical and individuals manage to deceive the sys- ment, or the threat there of. Little effort mental well-being,5 are obvious custom- tem, slip through the cracks, or decide was aimed at either understanding the ers. Of course, governments too can not to comply with its data collection. reasons for such behavior, or manag- benefit from this new free-market in the Hence, the flaws of the first generation ing the motivation of social activities. exchange of personal data, and thereby have reappeared in second generation Instead the emphasis was on condi- advance from procedures for manually systems. What is going on? tioning behavior at specific locations. watching the deeds of society’s mem- The use of this technology by gov- Commerce, through data mining and bers (such as through CCTV cameras) to ernments is also being queried. Some profiling, was quick to implement the automating the analysis of behavior. critics claim that the ultimate hidden second generation, trying to overcome At its beginning, this second genera- goal of governments is to create a mod- the limitations of the first. Computer- tion appeared to depart from the previ- ern panopticon, with politicians be- supported surveillance (the gambling ous panoptical identity architecture. lieving in a society in which the mere industry led the way here), loyalty cards, Rather than explicitly trying to curb an- illusion of monitoring and control credit card purchases, mobile phones tisocial behavior through the presence mechanisms is sufficient to stop those etc. enable the harvesting of personal of purely investigative technologies with criminal intentions: an emphasis data on everybody, including not only (such as a circular prison tower or CCTV on crime prevention over correction. those suspected of illegal activity, but cameras), or blatantly displaying the However, for such a ploy to succeed, the also high rollers, frequent flyers, actual analytical nature of common technolo- illusion must be tied to a real threat. In shoppers and potential customers at gies (such as loyalty cards) thereby scar- the original model, the prisoners had any number of lucrative locations. ing everyone into behaving in a socially to fear that there really was a guard It is hardly surprising that profit- acceptable manner, their true profiling behind the mesh screen; today’s citi- oriented corporations were the first and behavior-changing intentions were zens must believe that CCTV cameras to adopt sophisticated profiling and hidden behind seemingly beneficial are actually genuine, and cross-border data mining techniques. In its current and/or desirable outcomes for individ- shoppers must expect that their pur- form, individuals are awarded cash re- ual participants. But behind the scenes, chasing data (invoices and credit card bates or air miles when they present U.K.’s Inland Revenue demands access data) are available to customs agents. loyalty cards upon a purchase: what is to the records of supermarkets’ loyalty Equally important, the presence of sur- this but a reward for good behavior? cards in an effort to catch tax evaders;4 veillance systems must be directly con- Bad behavior is punished; customers the Pentagon purchases data on teenag- nected to the likelihood of disciplinary lose their benefits if they don’t keep up ers it can recruit into the military; and action. For if no legal action typically their shopping momentum. Few peo- the Homeland Security Department results, anti-social individuals would ple actually read the fine print before pays for consumer information to help never change their behavior. Clearly, releasing their personal data; most are screen people at borders and to detect the technologies used in generations more concerned about their members- immigration fraud.10 one and two are failing to intimidate, only savings than fair information However, unexpected consequences and are becoming less effective in re- practices. In other cases, the customer have come to light: more effectively tar- ducing shoplifting, pick-pocketing, 136 com municatio ns o f th e acm | J u ne 201 0 | vo l . 5 3 | no. 6
contributed articlessmuggling, speeding, terrorism, and age various categories of offence, and picious behavior. In other instances,parking violations, to name but a few. in most cases allow for little data flow RFID-enabled cash promises to closeThe punitive threat of technologies ap- between systems. Even when feedback the loop on information related to allpears to be held back by limitations in loops do connect systems to each other monetary transactions;1 Nexus cardstwo fundamental systemic properties: (such as one database to another, or hu- transmit details of individuals cross-the cohesive integrity within the sys- man agents to technological systems), ing the U.S.A./Canadian border. Co-tems involved; and the interaction, or updating the respective entries rarely hesion is on the rise, and connectingcoupling, between them. happens in real-time. For instance, the these individual systems more directly Highly cohesive systems focus on viability of the FBI’s Investigative Data is part of many national informationrelated sets of data and precise tasks, Warehouse rests on a number of agen- policies (such as the USA Patriot Act,and are clearly desirable in terms of ro- cies that update their records, which at the UK Regulation of Investigative Pow-bustness, reliability, and understand- times occurs on a daily basis, at other ers Act). But still, the places where dataability. Today’s panopticons, however, times monthly or even quarterly.9 The may be captured are limited in num-display low cohesion. They are difficult mills of justice grind exceeding slow. ber, and are often constrained to spe-to maintain, difficult to test, and even Naturally, the fact that in the mean- cific physical locations (such as bordermore difficult to understand. Take while many offenders go unpunished crossings); the panopticon is still notthe justice system: it uses many often- both dramatically reduces any threat, working perfectly. Dissidents can stillunrelated sets of data, and relies heav- and undermines the effectiveness of escape detection.ily on records, photos and fingerprints the fable of an all-seeing panopticon Enter the third generation. Thethat are kept on prior felons. Therefore, presented by the justice system. computing power of spy technologyfirst-time offenders and those who In their debility, governments turn has been placed in the hands of privatehave managed to stay out of the system to newer technologies in the hope of citizens. Essentially, the growing em-have nothing to fear from it. As a result, higher cohesion, more data, more data beddedness of IT artifacts throughoutpolicing is carried out with numerous sources, and for more coupling, and our social landscape, and the increas-different investigative activities based greater timeliness. In the meanwhile, ingly active involvement of informationon a number of unrelated data sources. false positives clog up the justice sys- systems and devices in everyone’s lives,In an effort to increase its systems’ co- tem. The objective of the government can substantially increase the area un-hesion, in Britain the government is is not only to catch more delinquents der surveillance, and do away with thefinding excuses to justify the DNA test- and arrest fewer innocents, but also to need for more policemen. By outsourc-ing and recording of large number of increase the perceived punitive power ing policing duties to the general pop-innocent citizens. Even schoolchildren of the state. But how to achieve these? ulation who are harnessing the investi-are not exempt from its National DNA For indeed, new technologies are gative power of common technologies,Database (NDNAD), the biggest DNA now emerging that increasingly permit the data density within our judiciaryrepository in the world. CODIS, the the automatic capture of data, tighten- systems can be increased enormously.Combined DNA Index System funded ing the government’s net, and allowing The ultimate public panopticon can beby the FBI in the U.S. is second, fol- fewer lawbreakers to slip through. Back- achieved by convincing the populationlowed by California’s own state system. scatter X-ray, for instance, automates to spy on itself. When live CCTV feedsIn terms of reliability, the punishment airport security checks to the point become tied to geospatial applicationsof non-criminal offences is also prob- where every traveler can be frisked. The on the Internet (such as Google Maps’lematic, where not all wrongdoings are amount of detail in the data produced highly detailed Street View feature), thecaught and penalized equally. While is staggering. Today’s installations of elderly will no longer spy only on theirgovernments can identify car owners, backscatter X-rays can produce photo- local neighborhoods from behind lacefor instance, through the use of license quality images of body contours that curtains, they will be able to watch aplates, they simply do not have the leave little to the imagination. Under much wider area online.manpower to ensure that all illegally the criticism of turning passenger There are many much more effectiveparked vehicles are ticketed, clamped screening into passenger voyeurism, personal devices that could be includ-or towed. As a result, many offenders some airports have dumbed down im- ed in this architecture. Take mobilego free. In the same way, not all cars age clarity with random noise added to phones; they are everywhere, and theiror cargo containers that cross borders the data, but only to a point where the functionality continues to amaze. Theare searched for illegal substances, not technology still serves as a great deter- convergence of cameras and phonesall foreign visitors undergo a detailed rent to carrying weapons on one’s per- was seen as the next killer applicationcriminal check, and guns used in vio- son. CCTV Cameras with face-recog- to replace the highly lucrative text mes-lent crimes are rarely registered. nition can now automatically identify saging (SMS), with Multimedia messag- Furthermore, the data that are avail- passers-by based on their eigenfaces ing (MMS). Although MMS is generallyable are stored in departmental silos, and landmark features. Computerized considered a failure, cameras are stilland are not always directly coupled monitoring can also look for particular in phones and videos and photos areor connected. By and large, activities items (suitcases or coats), and compare being recorded all the time. This om-within the justice system are recorded the conduct of one individual on cam- nipresence presents a new lens to theand treated independently of each oth- era to the behavior of a larger sample in concept of the panopticon. Exampleser. Individual database systems man- the same environment to identify sus- are in the recent instances of teacher- Ju n e 2 0 1 0 | vo l. 53 | n o. 6 | c om m u n ic at ion s of t h e acm 137
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