Hidden cameras are everywhere. They’re used for surveillance in all kinds of places and in most countries. In the UK, they’re certainly developing into a Surveillance Society: Now it’s for Cars. This is not just a western phenomenon, as an item in the People’s Daily, Beijing, China, shows with its headline, Security camera network system moves on. The heightened need for security is the reason for this multitude of hidden surveillance cameras. In some cases, they are being used for nefarious purposes. The technology advances at such a pace that tiny pinhole cameras can be placed in the most inconspicuous places. Not surprisingly the criminal element is exploiting hidden cameras and there are reports throughout North America that ATM ‘skimming’ is on the rise.
The security concerns might be thought to justify the undoubted loss of privacy that widespread usage of surveillance cameras entails. Many may think it’s a price worth paying. However not everyone agrees. There is even a group in New York called the Surveillance Camera Players. Their tagline is ‘They Like To Be Watched’ They also state that they are completely distrustful of all government. So they go around play-acting before security cameras as a protest movement.
That’s one aspect to this increased transparency and visibility of modern life. Societies and institutions are more aware of what we are doing as they film our every action. However there is a reverse side to the coin. Fifty years ago in 1955, a film was issued called “I Am A Camera“. The title is taken from Christopher Isherwood’s account of the rise of Nazism in Germany in the 1930’s. In 2001 the same title was used for an exhibition in London, UK, by Charles Saatchi. He is fascinated by the spoiled rich and the suffering poor. He was the man who marketed Margaret Thatcher and he and his brother once held the advertising account for the National Party of South Africa. However you might have come away from that exhibition thinking he was a Marxist.
That’s the power that each one of us has now. We are all cameras on the world. We don’t need to have Charles Saatchi’s money to rent an exhibition gallery. You can use free services to create and host your own view of the world. Large and powerful organizations sometimes forget that there are a host of ‘hidden cameras’ watching them. The Internet and the blogosphere are forcing a greater transparency in the way governments and companies act. Now that loss of privacy is much to be applauded.