Surveillance … It’s a Good Thing.

Sure I get it.  Hacking, spying and cameras watching your every move might leave you thinking that this surveillance obsessed society in which we exist is not benefiting anyone, except for industries who thrive on collecting every minute personal detail.  There must be some good in it somewhere.  Well consider my argument before you go knocking over a speed camera, giving a CCTV the middle finger or putting another layer of tape over your laptop.

Speed camera

red-light, green-light, 123 by Mark Wilke (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Surveillance can fight crime.

There are many examples where security vision has enabled law breakers and down-right horrible people to be identified and found guilty of crimes.  Just this year, police have urged residents with CCTVs in the City of Casey (Melbourne) to join a database which could assist with investigations and subsequent convictions.  People power against those who choose to misbehave and cause harm in the community.

Zissou (2013, p. 15) notes that after 600 security cameras were installed across Baltimore in America, the city’s crime rate dropped by nearly 25 per cent.  Furthermore, supporters of video surveillance confirm that officials are not interested in watching us shopping or walking our dogs, it’s only those conducting criminal activities who should be worried.

Surveillance can provide security.

Lyon (2013, pp. 4-5) argues that surveillance systems make sure we get paid correctly, that terrorism and drug-trafficking are contained  and that we can pay our way through an ordinary day without requiring a pocket full of cash.  Who wants to visit the bank every time we run out of cereal, milk, toothpaste, toilet paper, petrol … you get the idea.

Even when the plastic we use instead of money is compromised, surveillance can be there to assist.  I have had phone calls from my bank in the past notifying me of suspicious overseas purchases on my credit cards.  If it wasn’t for the vigilance of surveillance and its rapid response, then I could have been in for a big shock and a world of financial pain.

What about home security systems?  It’s home surveillance.  It’s a system.  It also provides security.

‘Most people in modern societies regard these accomplishments as contributing positively to the quality of life’ (Lyon 2013, p. 5).

Surveillance can entertain.

Have you ever accessed web cams from around the world that are situated in famous locations?  I often catch myself sitting at the laptop observing the rush of people, countless yellow cabs and the mesmerising neon display of Times Square in New York.  These cameras allow me to reflect on some fantastic memories of my time in that amazing city.  Guess what?  They are cameras watching people go about their busy day in a busy city, oblivious to the fact that little ol’ me is back in Australia watching what they are up to 16,000 kilometres away.  Yes it’s a form of surveillance but it doesn’t appear to be doing anything evil does it?  Except make me jealous of those tourists.

I’m jealous of myself when I see this photo!

Joe iphone pics 055

Taken by Joe Bovalino, 11 December 2013

In a weird way we need to monitor the monitors.  Surveillance should be regulated and be used wisely; however it’s not all bad.  It can help in crime prevention, gives us a sense of security and it can entertain us, perhaps even make us laugh.  As long as it’s not me being caught doing something embarrassing!


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Lyon, D 2013, The Electronic Eye: The Rise of Surveillance Society – Computers and Social Control in Context, Wiley: Hoboken, EBSCOhost, viewed 24 August 2016.

Zissou, R 2013, ‘Eye spy: should governments install surveillance cameras in public places?’, Junior Scholastic/Current Events, 19, EBSCOhost, viewed 29 August 2016.


Big ‘Boss’ is Watching.

When at work, think before you type.


email by miniyo73 (CC BY-SA 2.0)

With the rise of technology in the workplace, access to worker’s emails and online activity along with watching our every move has become common practice.  Company security has a price right?  Never has it bothered me, I have nothing to hide; I’m not doing anything wrong.  However, the more I ponder this scenario, the more questions I have.

Working life has changed dramatically over the past decade or so.  Lines are blurred as to when the workday begins and ends.  Many employees are expected to carry out work during personal time and as a trade-off private matters should be allowed during traditional hours using employer’s equipment (West & Bowman 2016, p. 629).  However, with this new environment comes the capability for employers to closely watch our every move, professionally and personally.

You can see me … I can see you.


Taken by Joe Bovalino, 6 August 2016

Stanton & Stam (2006, p. 69) argue that being more aware of monitoring and surveillance in the workplace may alter work behaviour and attitudes towards the job and the organisation itself.  It could create a sense of paranoia on management’s part and suspicion for employees.

There is a difference between monitoring an employee and keeping them under surveillance.  For me, the concept of being monitored is positive, consisting of meetings and one-on-one time with management to review performance, set goals and keep you inspired.  West & Bowman (2016, p. 629) observe that surveillance and technology allows management to monitor employee productivity without the need for direct supervision.  Does this mean that with the evolution of technology within the workplace, bosses have become more concerned about company protection rather than employee improvement?

Watching company profits or watching us?


management by zoetnet (CC BY 2.0)

Surveillance in the workplace is developing in three directions – increased use of personal data, bio-metrics and covert surveillance (Ball 2010, p. 91).  Personal data consists no more than bank details, home address, birth date; nothing sinister there.  Bio-metrics includes alcohol and drug testing.  For me, this seems imperative for safety-critical jobs such as driving large vehicles or handling dangerous equipment.  It is the covert surveillance which concerns me most.  This is where access to emails, web activities and work computers and those sneaky little cameras come into play.  After becoming more aware of just how watched an employee can be I decided to look up and was quite surprised to discover the density of ‘eyes’ fixed on me.

So how can employers and employees create common ground and a better understanding of what is acceptable surveillance?  In my view, employers should be transparent and clarify why cameras are necessary in the workplace.  Is it purely for security reasons or for monitoring productivity?  Explain to employees the reasons behind the monitoring of emails or computers, sure if offensive material is distributed through a work network then that is unacceptable.  Otherwise in my case do what I do.  I never connect my phone to the workplace Wi-Fi, I only use the work computer for work related matters and I always smile at the cameras.  Employee of the year – ME!

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Ball, K 2010, Workplace Surveillance: an Overview, Labor History, 51, 1, pp. 87-106, EBSCOhost, viewed 9 August 2016.

Stanton, J, & Stam, K 2006, The Visible Employee: Using Workplace Monitoring and Surveillance to Protect Information Assets–Without Compromising Employee Privacy or Trust, Medford, N.J., EBSCOhost, viewed 9 August 2016.

West, J, & Bowman, J 2016, ‘Electronic Surveillance at Work’, Administration & Society, 48, 5, pp. 628-651, EBSCOhost, viewed 9 August 2016.


Liberty Road (surveil mix) by keytronic (CC BY-NC 3.0)

Camera.mp3 by Bratok999 (CC0 1.0)