3 November 2006

Waking up to a surveillance society

Be the first to share

Surveillance
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
25 May 2015
A Bauhaus-inspired, human-centered internet of things
In a short opinion piece in The Guardian, Jenny Judge and Julia Powles state that the Bauhaus movement could be a model for a more human-centered internet of things: "Back in the early 20th century, the …
22 May 2015
Conference Call: Design Anthropological Futures
Design Anthropological Futures conference Organised by the Research Network for Design Anthropology August 13-14, 2015 Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts - School of Design in Copenhagen, Denmark The Design Anthropological Futures conference explores future-making from a design …
17 May 2015
We are ignoring the new machine age at our peril
In 2009, W Brian Arthur published a remarkable book, The Nature of Technology, in which he formulated a coherent theory of what technology is, how it evolves and how it spurs innovation and industry. Technology, …
17 May 2015
Policy paper: Making Good our Future
Making Good our Future: Exploring the New Boundaries of Open & Social Innovation in Manufacturing Policy Paper prepared for the European Commission May 2015, 49 pages As part of the Social Innovation Europe initiative, the European Commission has …
13 May 2015
Social Media + Society, an open-access journal
Social Media + Society is an online, open-access, peer-reviewed scholarly journal deeply committed to advancing the understanding of social media and its impact on societies past, present and future. With a leading editorial team, the …
13 May 2015
The thirteen Ps of big data
Big data are often described as being characterised by the ‘3 Vs’: volume, variety, and velocity, sometimes augmented with value, veracity/validity, virality, and viscosity. These characterisations principally come from the worlds of data science and data …
13 May 2015
We’re more than mere consumers, and business should remember that
Companies collect an ever-growing amount of information on customers, but forgetting the individuals behind big data is detrimental, not least to business, writes author and speaker John C. Havens. Today’s customers, empowered by mobile technologies and …
13 May 2015
Myth of globalization in consumer tech
In nearly every category Ben Bajarin (Principal Analyst, Creative Strategies) studies, he sees the regionalization of consumer tech, not its globalization. This view of the market is showing how regional technology players in many segments …

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.

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
21 December 2014
Experientia’s Twitter feed live

Experientia has now its own Twitter feed. Four months of Putting People First posts and other links have already been uploaded. If you followed Experientia on Twitter through the feed of its CEO, Mark Vanderbeeken, make sure to now also follow the company (but don’t unfollow Mark, who will keep on tweeting away). And while […]

19 December 2014
Putting People First blog redesigned

Experientia’s Putting People First blog has been redesigned. It is now entirely responsive, allows for easier browsing, searching, and filtering, and features larger images on the posts. The entire history of posts remains accessible as before. We are still tweaking things and welcome any feedback.

27 November 2014
Why the world needs anthropologists – an update

Why the world needs anthropologists – Coming out of the ivory tower Location: Padua, Italy, Centro Culturale Altinate/San Gaetano Date and time: Friday, 5 December 2014, 13:00 – 18:00 Padua, Italy, 5 December 2014 – The second edition of the international symposium of applied anthropologists attempts to erase the boundary between ‘pure’ and ‘applied’ anthropology, […]

See all articles