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Surveillance and Morality

The first speaker, Gregory T. Donovan opened the discussion panel by talking about participation, proprietary media, and what he called ”dataveillance” in the ”smart” city. ”Dataveillance” means ”the surveillance of a person’s activities by studying the data trail created by actions such as credit card purchases, mobile phone calls, and Internet use”. This type of surveillance can be used on ”no fee”-services such as Google and Facebook, two platforms in which we share a big amount of our ”private” information. “Smart” cities can be defined as a vendor or term commonly used to refer to the creation of knowledge infrastructure, and relates to a broadband, wireless and digital concept for future cities. In this, Donovan mentioned smartphones and “Easypass”, two frequently used digits, which automatically tie you into urban surveillance. He also mentioned a development of new media districts, such as IBM, a surveillance center looking over many aspects of cities (crime, economy etc.). Donovan brought up Focault’s panopticon, and how society is moving towards the opposite: the urban oligopticon. The panopticon was originally a prison-structure, a model based on the idea of being watched but not seeing anyone from your own position – the oligopticon is based on the idea of the opposite.


When talking about surveillance, Donovan mentioned “United States vs. Jones”, a case based on the violation of constitutional law: a tracking device was placed on Jones’ vehicle to track him down. Donovan talked about how we have different social expectations, which puts things into perspective, and asked the question, is it OK to install your own tracking device for driving directions? Where does the moral line go? Jones was suspected for drug trafficking: when in suspicion -- when is it OK to track down people?


We have lately talked a lot about digital surveillance and information privacy, and many times there have been questions about morality. As mentioned before, I think it is important, and about time that we create a digital handbook, as there is a lot to inform and be informed about in terms of what we agree to and what we don’t agree to on the Internet.

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