Useless self-surveillance for the paranoid

There is a widespread misconception that cameras somehow create safety. This misconception has spread to encompass the idea that surveillance somehow creates safety. This morning while standing in an all too crowded buss to work I was forced to stare at an advert which I first thought was for an optician since it contained a picture of a blond woman smiling while trying on different sunglasses… At first I thought it was odd to be advertising sunglasses in Sweden in December since there is no sun to be bothered by. Should the sun peek out everyone would greet it rather than hide from it, but as usual I digress.

paranoia by katiew (CC by-nc-nd)

The add was for a voluntary mobile phone self-surveillance system.

The banner read (in Swedish, but I translate): Watch over yourself [as in surveillance] with your mobile. The ad then went on to explain that you send a text message with the word “SAFE” to the company who then register your position and follow your movements for 30 minutes. After that time you receive an sms asking if you are safe – to which reply that you are. If no reply comes the company notify your friends, attempts to reach you and notifies the police.

The ad attempts to increase the level of paranoia people feel at the same time attempts to claim that a system such as this will keep you safe from the fears which they themselves promote. Naturally as with all surveillance systems they cannot prevent crime the only thing that surveillance can do is to help clean up the mess after the fact. If you are mugged, beaten, raped, killed…. or any of the other things you fear… this system will be able to tell you were you were.

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