Surveillance, which means to be watched or observed, is an important way that one person or group can exercise some amount of control over other individuals or groups.
Recall the father's actions in The Road. He regularly used binoculars to scan the landscape and to look for any signs of people or movement. If he saw people at a distance, then the father avoided contact.
Government agencies also use surveillance to exercise control over the population -- this includes domestic populations and international populations. People are closely observed as they pass through security at the airport or when they go through a sobriety road check or when the National Security Agency uses illegal wiretapping to watch people inside the US.
Here are some of the ways that the government uses different kinds of surveillance to exercise control over different populations:
1. The US government and other governments around the world request that Google provide user data. Here is a nice graphic that illustrates the frequency of requests.
WASHINGTON — The Federal Bureau of Investigation is giving significant new powers to its roughly 14,000 agents, allowing them more leeway to search databases, go through household trash or use surveillance teams to scrutinize the lives of people who have attracted their attention.The F.B.I. soon plans to issue a new edition of its manual, called the Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide, according to an official who has worked on the draft document and several others who have been briefed on its contents. The new rules add to several measures taken over the past decade to give agents more latitude as they search for signs of criminal or terrorist activity.3. Some members of Congress (not all members of Congress) are working to pass laws that would empower certain domestic police agencies to gather "geolocation data" -- that is, the information stored on a person's GPS and cell phone that tracks their movement. This would enable the FBI to gather that information.
4. The FBI uses GPS devices to track peoples' movement. Without a warrant, FBI agents secretely attach a GPS tracking device to a person's bumper and monitor their movement.
5. City governments also conduct surveillance. Major metropolitan areas like Washington, DC, New York City, and Chicago have extensive surveillance systems that enable police agents to monitor peoples' activity. Chicago has 10,000 cameras placed around the city, for instance.
Here are my questions for you to consider and thoughtfully comment on:
What do you think?
Surveillance is an important aspect of modern government. Does that mean all government surveillance is justified? For reasons of security, should the government be able to conduct as much surveillance as deemed necessary? Or, can there be too much governmental surveillance? If there can be too much governmental surveillance, where is the limit? Who should be responsible for drawing that limit -- and saying this is the proper amount of surveillance and we will accept no more? And, what are the potential risks to the population if the government collects information on all aspects of peoples' lives? What is the value of having a part of our lives that are outside of governmental surveillance?