The History Of Surveillance In Society

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Introduction Surveillance – the process of closely observing individuals – has become a fundamental part of most societies. Over the years surveillance has grown so pervasive that it’s become difficult to analyze and/or regulate it. In fact, the transfer of personal data has increased so much that surveillance touches innumerable parts of everyday life, which leads many to wonder if society has reached the end of privacy. This essay will discuss the ways in which surveillance has become incorporated into social life. This includes a look at the history of surveillance and the different social spheres in which we experience surveillance. It will also discuss the different control mechanisms that exist to keep people from ‘getting out…show more content…
Early practices of surveillance were mostly accomplished through spies or small groups of informants. Over time and with the help of technological advancements, surveillance has shifted from a primitive form of information gathering to one of sophistication. Additionally, the purpose of surveillance has become more aimed at mass control rather than simple observations. A brief look at 19th century England illustrates these two…show more content…
French philosopher Michel Foucault talks about this evolution of power in his works. According to Foucault, those in power were the ones under the watchful eye of the public. Royalty lived in noticeable castles; dressed in flamboyant clothes and held extravagant ceremonies. The majority of society lived life in the dark and was subjected to harsh punishment. When the legal system changed and favored criminal reformation versus punishment, so did the nature of society. The new legal system made prisoners and the majority of society visible. There came a shift from “monarchial punishment” to “disciplinary punishment” – a process that increasingly substituted control through brutality with control through surveillance (Thomson, 2013). Modern Surveillance Over time, surveillance techniques have grown from the basic monitoring system of Bentham’s Panopticon to include high-tech, sophisticated forms of surveillance. These modern surveillance techniques allow for a larger collection of data over shorter periods of time and with higher levels of effectiveness. This section will discuss the ways in which surveillance has been incorporated into social life by highlighting the ways in which surveillance is implemented.
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