Archive for the ‘The Pros’ Category

Safety & Internet Surveillance

Posted: May 2, 2013 by Nikolas Sartin-Tarm in The Pros


What is this surveillance thing anyway and why does it matter to us? 

The safety of the citizens of the world is always the number one priority when the topic of Internet Surveillance comes up in discussions in politics around the world. For people that are extememly against being tracked fully online, accroding to the New American, “For Internet freedom activists, though, government regulation or control of the Internet is off the table and non-negotiable. First of all, the U.S. Constitution does not allow even the federal government to regulate the Web, much less the UN; and if either gets its foot in the door, restoring liberty online would be extremely difficult (2012).” The U.S. and the world need to know that the government is not trying to see what you did at that party last weekend, they want to know if you are engaging in suspicious activities online.

When one talks about internet surveillance and how it relates to the political environment, you have to discuss the Patriot Act. This website defines what the Patriot Act actually entails. Within this website it is said that the Patriot Act is in place to help to “enhance law enforcement investigatory tools” ( This is important for the safety of the United Sates Citizens, especially after the Terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. 

Internet surveillance is something that we all have to deal with. Although, in the political sphere, it is something much more prominent. It is something that government officials have to deal with every day. They are suing tracking tools to see what people are doing and also be scrutinized at the same time. The way that the government and Internet surveillance are intertwined allow for a safer place to call home. If the United States government is tracking our every move, whether it be on social media or our Google searches, we need to know that it is for the safety of the United States citizens. Without this tracking and big brother watchdog methodology, the government would not be able to find the terrorist plots that have occasionally started online. This is why we need to just accept the fact that we are being watched in this new society.

Clay Shirky has made many discussions about the Internet and how it ties into society. Clay did a TED talk that I found very interesting  and related to Internet and how the government can use it for surveillance.

Clay touched on social media in his TED talk as well but there was another video that discusses the discussions that have been made within the United Nations about having global Internet surveillance in order to create a safer place for the world citizens. Clay does not discuss any of the surveillance topics until the video is almost done but he still touches on it. I believe this video is a good look at what social media and media history is in today’s world. Without this background information, it would be hard to understand what people are even up in arms about in regards to their Internet privacy.

Many people are up in arms about this because they think it is taking away from their right to privacy. These citizens need to know that the tracking of our Internet activity allow for a safer place. This video also discussed the problems of the distribution of copyrighted material. This is where most of the people got angered about having total Internet surveillance. They want to have the opportunity to share their music or videos that they have downloaded with their friends and they do not see the problem with this. The government, as an institution needs to be able to protect the business that keep local governments going. One of these viable business is the multimedia industry that some people believe is suffering from sharing copyrighted material.

In all honesty, I do not believe being watch online is that big of a deal. I have nothing to hide. If the government wants to read my emails from my professors and my boss, then go ahead. I also believe that the government will not be watching your Internet usage if you are not doing anything suspicious. This is something I have reiterated many times, but I believe it needs to be said. The governments of the world only have access to small amount of your information and what they do have they only examine if you are going a “person of interest”.

Whether you are for or against the government using Internet surveillance on their citizens, it is important to be educated about the topics.

-Johnny Walters Jr.


Clay Shirky: How social media can make history. 2009. Video. TED Web. 29 Apr 2013. <;.

“UN Seeking Global Internet Surveillance For Terror, Propaganda.” New American (08856540) 28.22 (2012): 7. Academic Search Premier. Web. 27 Apr. 2013.

Image Credit

N.d. Photograph. n.p. Web. 27 Apr 2013. <;.


Pro Surveillance: Analyzing Political Relationships of Power

Posted: April 30, 2013 by Nikolas Sartin-Tarm in The Pros

Jerod Greenisen


Society will benefit from the conception that actions are watched, if criminal behavior is monitored and punitive measures are implemented correctly. The presence of cameras do not reduce crime, as cameras are non-punitive agents and only function to increase the awareness of criminal behavior. Present cameras do perpetuate the conception that criminal behavior is in the area. Therefore society would benefit from the actions of punitive agents in response to recorded criminal behavior, however this benefit is consequential only if punitive agents are able to effectively rely on cameras. Additionally, society would benefit far greater from the conception that cameras are everywhere. This would create attitudes that are consistent with studies suggesting that criminality is only reduced when punitive measures are implemented and  that as a result of surveillance, criminal behavior is reduced. Reliance on surveillance by punitive agents that leads to successful measures in statistical data concerning apprehended criminal behavior will benefit society if the relationship between surveillance and punitive agents is strengthened by execution, consistency, and expansion. Should criminal behavior be apprehended as a result of surveillance on a consistent basis the demand for increased surveillance will grow. This is to say that society demands safety and that it trusts its punitive agents to ensure safety. The expansion of surveillance is intrinsic to its existence. The presence of cameras increases the conception within public opinion that criminal behavior happens in the area under surveillance– should it be apprehended– then expanding the area of surveillance will be embraced by society as the presence of surveillance ensures a safer community, even in the safest of spaces. Also, the expansion of surveillance of public space will perpetuate the conception that criminality is abound, and transcends sociologically ascribed borders of varying degrees of safety.

A prime example of the successful implementation of a successful relationship between punitive agents and surveillance oriented policy can be seen in this case study.  Allison Manning of  The Columbus Dispatch reports that one year after more than 100 camera were installed crime statistics dropped in several categories in most of the neighborhoods. Most noteworthy Weinland Park had a 46% drop in assaults. The Hilltop had 44% decreases, and other neighborhoods with a greater ratio of observational area  to camera saw decreases of about 14%. The results pleased city officials and the police that twelve more cameras were purchased as a result. Additionally the explementary statistics of the policy lead to  the  Urban Institute’s Justice Policy Center formally endorsing Columbus Ohio stating “Columbus is doing something right because they’re considering when the incidents of crime are most likely to occur”. This was said in response to the monitoring of CCTV feeds, staffed professionals are constantly monitoring feeds on weekends leading to strategic coordination of dispatched police units. Criticisms that the cameras have pushed criminal behavior outside the scope of the cameras have been coupled by complaints that neighborhoods without the added security are being excluded, and the cameras would be a welcome addition to the police presence in the area.


These studies concerning public opinion of security cameras and the example set in Columbus, Ohio strengthen the conception that surveillance has the power to enrich societies and shape public opinion. The nature of surveillance transcends physical cameras. It extends into the internet and functions in contexts that are more complex than cameras on street corners, but the motiv and potential good for society are the same. Three major players emerge out of this relationship with  the  internet, there are corporations, governments, and masses of individuals, consumers, and citizens. Each party has a stake and relationship to each other and in the implementation of web based surveillance. By analysing the power relationships between the three players a greater understanding of the political relevance that an increased acceptance of surveillance has to the benefits of society.

The relationship between the consumer and the corporation is a good relationship to begin to discuss the benefits surveillance holds for a society that embraces  shared information,  efficient methods of communication, and  connectivity. The freedom of expression is a highly valued freedom in American society. A great deal of criticism about social networking sites is concerned with the issue of  narcissism. So, concerned that  Bill Davidow of the Atlantic dubbed it an epidemic. It is important to keep in mind the relationship being described here. People are very willing to share information about themselves online, imagine looking for one’s reflection in every reflective surface on one’s way to a destination. This epidemic, so to speak, is creating a new relationship businesses have to consumers. As people are so free to share information about themselves on social media platforms businesses interested in more effective advertisements are listening in. This is all to connect one with a better consumer experience, after all checking to see if one’s hair looks okay in a shop window and discovering the perfect pair of shoes is a fantastic surprise. Natasha Singer of the New York Times wrote a very insightful article about how there is a trade economy centered around the trade of identities like stocks in the NYSE is exploding. Within seconds profiles, founded upon social media interactions, mouse clicks, goolgled items, and an assortment of web based interaction,  are being sold to firms that want to tailor  one’s experience on the web. Should someone be someone listen to The Beastie Boys very consistant frequency, would that person who goes to a  music related site be upset to be reminded (or even learn for the first time) that a new documentary is coming for release soon though a banner ad? Often criticisms surface that advertisements are not relevant to a consumer, “why would I buy diapers, I don’t have a child?” this criticism can be taken in a new direction.- support for increased mobility of businesses to access publically shared information. For certain online privacy is important and social media platforms as well as web browsers offer the opportunity to keep some interactions private, however should anyone pass up on the opportunity to transparently represented on the web- they would also miss out on all the efficiency and precision the web has to offer the individual consumer.

Individuals have another relationship that has been healthily fostered through developing surveillance devices and methods. The State has a prime interest in perpetuating itself, protecting its borders, securing safety within those borders, and  self  correcting itself for errors.  Three case studies can help shed light upon the role surveillance plays in the individuals investment in a relationship to the state. The first case comes from a few years back and functions to describe how the state self corrects its errors in the interest of the citizen it means to protect. The case involving CIA Director David Petraeus and his affair with Paula Broadwell is good example. Here there is an extension of the state that is faltering and possibly contributing to a deterioration of the state’s prowess- sharing detailed, classified, sensitive information outside the explicit means of communication. Resolving the issue was hinged upon careful surveillance techniques and cross referencing that data with other data such as credit card transactions and hotel check-ins. The state is also interested in protecting its borders. Take for example how Chinese hackers (possibly state-sponsored) were apprehended using sophisticated trojan horse methods and cross referencing facial recognition with the facebook account activity of the suspected hackers.  Lastly the state is vested in securing safety within its own borders. The success of the Boston Bomber apprehension is a bright example, but nothing in comparison to the achievements of the NYPD special anti-terror units and London-inspired CCTV campaigns. Siting the prevention of several terrorist plots, before they even happened. The state already has a vested interest in civilian security and surveillance has proven an efficient method of  execution.

The third and final relationship that is worth analysing is the relationship between the state and corporations concerning where the individual’s stake is in both . There is hardly room for conversation or action to remove the current system of surveillance. The systems that are in place to track interactions on the web are far more more rooted than many of us are even aware. CNN correspondent and tech columnist Bruce Schneier in the article “The Internet is the Surveillance State” bluntly articulates that the battle for complete online privacy is over. He lays out case by case examples of just how invested corporations and governments- even in in liberal democracies- are in securing the web transparency of individuals online. It is also worth pointing out that the governments and corporations often work together to share information about web profiles, see recent legislations that pushes for backdoors to be put into web programs that are exclusive to the police to secure information. Legislation and political action should be focused more on web freedoms for the individual. Watch us on the web, but grant us the same rights that you grant corporations. Farhad Manjoo writes for Slate, “When you weigh cameras against other security measures, they emerge as the least costly and most effective choice. In the aftermath of 9/11, we’ve turned most public spaces into fortresses — now, it’s impossible for you to get into tall buildings, airports, many museums, concerts, and even public celebrations without being subjected to pat-downs and metal detectors. When combined with competent law enforcement, surveillance cameras are more effective, less intrusive, less psychologically draining, and much more pleasant than these alternatives.” Let the public take it a step further.

Should the discourse in the individuals right to privacy, anywhere and wherever be shifting in the direction favoring the state and the corporation, the individual needs to level the field by pursuing policy that grants the individual the same access to information. Much of the alienation towards surveillance comes from attitudes that express uncertainty or  mystery surrounding where the results of surveillance is going, what is being done with it, and who exactly cares or is watching. Policy that grants corporations the ability to be vigilant on the web, governments should be within reach of the people as well. David Brin articulates in his novel “The Transparent Society” the worth of empowering everyone to the access of CCTV and internet mobility and identity. This must be the direction that the individual finds solace within when it comes to the web identity. Whereas the powers that demand privacy to be release are too great and whereas the discourse on what constitutes a free entity under the state (be it a real person or a corporation), the individual must secure this right of corporations and governments for themselves.


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