Does Surveillance Make Us Better People?

Or did you not even realize you were being watched.


Our world is one of trade-offs. Should I use Google even though I know my search queries are being stored? Should I text my significant other a seductive photo, even though I know the NSA could see it and pass it around the office? Knowing I'm being watched — could be watched — has made me a different person.

One of the big questions in this argument over mass surveillance and data mining is: Does it make us morally better — safer — or just more obedient?

In my own life, it has made me neither “better” nor more obedient. It has, however, made me a more selective consumer. If you own a restaurant with a surveillance camera, you may have footage of me walking in and walking out. Maybe your staff even remembers me. I'm the girl who awkwardly walked in, looked around the room, maybe even asked one of your staff if I could use the restroom while I waited for a friend before you seated me. This is my routine, and sometimes I walk out; sometimes I stay and eat. What I'm doing is looking for surveillance cameras at your establishment. If I can't eat without a surveillance camera watching me, most of the time, I'll leave. My privacy matters and I vote with my dollar to say as much.

Likewise, when I browse the internet, I use Tor and search using an engine that won't track my queries, like DuckDuckGo. I've just become better at avoiding surveillance situations. I'm in the minority, though.

Many people simply don't care, because to them the trade-off is either worth it or they don't think about it. After all, 40 percent of people who participated in a Pew survey said they think it's acceptable for the government to spy on its own citizens. Likewise, when I tell people in my personal life about DuckDuckGo or to download an app that will encrypt their calls and messages — no technical work on their end — I get an uncommitted, “Eh, I'll check it out later.”

Brad Templeton would say we're letting our society become something out of George Orwell's 1984:

Biohacking: Why I'll live to be 180 years old

From computer hacking to biohacking, Dave Asprey has embarked on a quest to reverse the aging process.

Videos
  • As a teenager, founder of Bulletproof, Dave Asprey, began experiencing health issues that typically plague older adults.
  • After surrounding himself with anti-aging researchers and scientists, he discovered the tools of biohacking could dramatically change his life and improve his health.
  • He's now confident he'll live to at least 180 years old. "It turns out that those tools that make older people young make younger people kick ass," he says.
Keep reading Show less

First solar roadway in France turned out to be a 'total disaster'

French newspapers report that the trial hasn't lived up to expectations.

Image source: Charly Triballeau / AFP / Getty Images
Technology & Innovation
  • The French government initially invested in a rural solar roadway in 2016.
  • French newspapers report that the trial hasn't lived up to expectations.
  • Solar panel "paved" roadways are proving to be inefficient and too expensive.
Keep reading Show less

European wind farms could meet global energy demand, researchers now say

A new study estimated the untapped potential of wind energy across Europe.

Pixabay
Surprising Science
  • A new report calculated how much electricity Europe could generate if it built onshore wind farms on all of its exploitable land.
  • The results indicated that European onshore wind farms could supply the whole world with electricity from now until 2050.
  • Wind farms come with a few complications, but the researchers noted that their study was meant to highlight the untapped potential of the renewable energy source in Europe.
Keep reading Show less