Who’s Watching The Watchers
Published: July 31st, 2013
By: Kevin Doonan

Who’s watching the watchers

Rapidly developing technology coupled with an ever shrinking world have pitted the moral and ethical dilemma of privacy versus security against one another in increasingly volatile confrontations. In July, a security faux pas in New Delhi, India, came to the attention of the public. It would appear security surveillance videos from the New Delhi metro system – reportedly the 13th largest in the world – capturing images of Indian couples getting “intimate” in the tube found their way onto websites ... explicate in nature. Security officials denied allegations faulting them, claiming the videos appear to have instead been taken by hand held devices. Whether or not the New Delhi metro authorities are to blame, there does not appear to be any law on the Indian books which holds the culprits accountable, whoever they may be.

While commuters probably shouldn't be getting frisky or whatever in a public place and expect people to respect their privacy – after all, we are a communal species which likes to share – it brings up some important issues. There is, of course, the age old question of who watches the watchmen, however the incident, which has been dubbed by the media as the “Delhi Metro Videos,” brings up other questions relating to modern surveillance as well as the increasing availability of hand held recording devices. In essence, people who used to be your average peeping Tom now have the devices to distribute their eavesdropping to countless others. What's more, many of those peeping Toms are employed by governments and fulfill an official and “necessary” function. Which is where the balancing act comes in. Events such as 9/11 and the recent Boston bombing have proved societies have a very real need for surveillance. Yet situations such as the “Delhi Metro Videos” highlight humanity's capacity to abuse that trust. After all, idle hands are the devil's ... something or other.

People are not to be trusted and should be monitored, however the fatal flaw in any such monitoring is that the people involved in said monitoring are not to be trusted either. The only way I see it working is through transparency and guidelines which can hold the monitors accountable. Therefore people's untrustworthiness will converge and ultimately cancel out. Or maybe it would just compound.

People are not inherently evil per say. Evil implies a vast amount of forethought. People are just people, animals with thumbs and utensils. They get their thumbs on something even more sophisticated than a spoon and who knows what they are going to do. I am not trying to warn people about the misuse of technology, instead I’m simply pointing out that if it’s around, someone is going to do something weird with it. Misuse is going to happen, the question is what is going to be done about it.

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