3 November 2006

Waking up to a surveillance society

Be the first to share

The UK Information Commissioner launched yesterday a public debate on the implications of living in a surveillance society and published a detailed report on the issue.

The report, entitled “A surveillance society”, looks at surveillance in 2006 and projects forward ten years to 2016. It describes a surveillance society as one where technology is extensively and routinely used to track and record our activities and movements. This includes systematic tracking and recording of travel and use of public services, automated use of CCTV, analysis of buying habits and financial transactions, and the work-place monitoring of telephone calls, email and internet use. This can often be in ways which are invisible or not obvious to ordinary individuals as they are watched and monitored, and the report shows how pervasive surveillance looks set to accelerate in the years to come.

Richard Thomas said: “Two years ago I warned that we were in danger of sleepwalking into a surveillance society. Today I fear that we are in fact waking up to a surveillance society that is already all around us. surveillance activities can be well-intentioned and bring benefits. They may be necessary or desirable – for example to fight terrorism and serious crime, to improve entitlement and access to public and private services, and to improve healthcare. But unseen, uncontrolled or excessive surveillance can foster a climate of suspicion and undermine trust.”

The report provides glimpses of life in a surveillance society in 2016, including how:

  • Shoppers will be scanned as they enter stores, their clothes recognised through unique RFID tags embedded in them. This will be matched with loyalty card data to affect the way they are treated as they do their shopping, with some given preferential treatment over others
  • Cars linked to global satellite navigation systems which will provide the quickest route to avoid current congestion, automatically debit the mileage charge from bank accounts and allow police to monitor the speed of all cars and to track selected cars more closely
  • Employees will be subject to biometric and psychometric tests plus lifestyle profiles with diagnostic health tests common place. Jobs are refused to those who are seen as a health risk or don’t submit to the tests. Staff benefit packages are drawn up depending upon any perceived future health problems that may affect their productivity.
  • Schools will introduce card systems to allow parents to monitor what their children eat, their attendance, record of achievement and drug test results
  • Facial recognition systems will be used to monitor our movements using tiny cameras embedded in lampposts and in walls, with “friendly flying eyes in the sky” (unmanned aerial vehicles) keeping an eye on us from above
  • Older people will feel more isolated as sensors and cameras in their home provide reassurance to their families who know they are safe therefore pay fewer family visits.
  • Prosperous individuals will start to use personal information management services to monitor their ‘data shadow’ to make sure they are not disadvantaged by any of the vast quantities of information held about them being wrong or out of date. Others without the resources do this will be forced to stand on the other side of a new ‘digital divide’.

Go to report download page
– Articles from The Guardian and BBC News

In a related story, The Guardian reports that according to experts “the internet will hold so much digital data in five years that it will be possible to find out what an individual was doing at a specific time and place”.

“Nigel Gilbert, a professor heading a Royal Academy of Engineering study into surveillance, said people would be able to sit down and type into Google ‘what was a particular individual doing at 2.30 yesterday and would get an answer’.”

“The answer would come from a range of data, for instance video recordings or databanks which store readings from electronic chips. Such chips embedded in people’s clothes could track their movements. He told a privacy conference the internet would be capable of holding huge amounts of data very cheaply and patterns of information could be extracted very quickly. “Everything can be recorded for ever,” he said.”

Read full story

Be the first to share
12 November 2015
Open call for social impact business ideas and start-ups in Italy
Rinascimenti Sociali ["Social Renaissances"], the first accelerator of social knowledge and entrepreneurship in Italy, launches Foundamenta, a call exclusively dedicated to new business ideas and start-ups generating social impact. Our call is aimed at selecting …
12 November 2015
Interview with John Thackara: how to thrive in the next economy
On the occasion of the U.S. launch of his new book, How to Thrive in the Next Economy: Designing Tomorrow's World Today, John Thackara sat down with Core77's Allan Chochinov to talk about the book, …
10 November 2015
Why service design is luxury’s new battleground
Ana Andjelic writes in AdAge that most legacy luxury brands are failing at delivering service, especially online: The fact that most legacy luxury brands fail to successfully create and deliver service is unfortunate. The business of …
10 November 2015
For years, Apple followed user-centered design principles. Then something went wrong.
Don Norman and Bruce Tognazzini are taking their gloves off and accuse Apple of abandoning the fundamental principles of good design: discoverability, feedback, proper mapping, appropriate use of constraints, and, of course, the power to …
10 November 2015
The science of human behavior is reshaping the US government
In September, President Barack Obama signed an executive order that directs federal agencies to incorporate insights from behavioral science into their programs, in order to help them achieve their policy goals. According to Dave Nussbaum, …
10 November 2015
[Book] Nudge and the Law: A European Perspective
Nudge and the Law: A European Perspective First Edition Edited by: Alberto Alemanno, Anne-Lise Sibony Hart Publishing December 2015, 400 pages Abstract Behavioural sciences help refine our understanding of human decision-making. Their insights are immensely relevant for policy-making since …
5 November 2015
Customer journey mapping is at the heart of digital transformation
Digital technologies such as analytics, mobility, social networks, cloud computing and the Internet of Things are making old ways of working redundant and forcing companies to transform. According to Raman Sapra, global head of Dell’s …
5 November 2015
[Conference] Design & The City, Amsterdam, April 2016
Design & The City explores citizen-centered design approaches for the smart city. Central theme is the role of design(ers) to create opportunities and practices for citizens, (social) entrepreneurs and policy makers towards more liveable, sustainable and …

We are an international experience design consultancy helping companies and organisations to innovate their products, services and processes by putting people and their experiences first.

13 October 2015
Experientia report: Design for ageing gracefully

Design for Ageing Gracefully Rethinking Health and Wellness for the Elderly: Public Services Asian Insights & Design Innovation, DesignSingapore Council October 2015

29 September 2015
[Experientia book] Ethnography on elderly health and wellness

As we age, we increasingly depend on public services and the community for support. Well-designed public services can greatly affect the lives of the elderly and their experiences of healthcare. Experientia collaborated with DesignSingapore Council on understanding how the elderly interact with public services and how we can look towards improving their lives with design. […]

2 July 2015
Getting citizens involved in protecting fragile energy environments

A new project funded under the FP7 European Commission framework is getting citizens involved in testing new tools for reducing energy consumption during peak loads, in the hope that its pilot program will set the new state of the art for protecting locations with fragile electricity supplies. One of France’s most fragile regions The Provence-Alpes-Côte […]

5 May 2015
Experientia designer Dohun YuLuck Jang 유록 in Design 4 Disaster

Design 4 Disaster features an engaging illustrated safety manual for ship passengers, a personal project by Experientia designer Dohun YuLuck Jang 유록. After the Korean ferry accident last year, Yuluck (who is Korean) wanted to find a way to make safety manuals more interesting to read. He spent one year designing an interactive safety guide […]

16 March 2015
Better Health and Wellbeing: Giving the elderly in Singapore sparkling golden years

Invitation: sharing session, Singapore, 30 March 2015   What are the hopes and fears of the elderly in Singapore? How can designers offer solutions that support the elderly in managing their health and wellness? What can healthcare professionals do to help them keep active? What role can technology play in the elderly’s daily lives? Design consultants […]

1 January 2015
Happy Playful New Year
See all articles