Ever read Jeremy Bentham? At first glance, some of his ideas sound pretty reasonable. His happiness principle sounds like a good way to live life, for example. I think that some of his proposed applications of these ideas were too far on the side of insane though. How about his Panopticon, where one watchman could keep an eye on over 100 people, but the people being watched could not see him. The main focus for this was prisons but Bentham considered any public building suitable, hospitals, schools and kindergarten/daycare. Which to me amounts to ruling by fear.
Saying that, he also believed in a transparent surveillance system, so at least you knew you were being watched. It doesn’t sound too far away from what we have at the moment, to be honest. Edward Snowdon’s leaked files have opened many eyes, and we’re still finding terrifying erosions of civil liberties buried in them. Here’s a report from the Washington Post that tells us that the NSA collect around 5 billion phone records every day, all over the world.
Not only do they collect this mindblowing amount of information, based on location, but they are running analysis on this data to find patterns and relationship between connections. They say the data is anonymised and that they use it to track legitimate threats to national security. We now know they do this, but we can’t ever know if they are looking at or analysing our own data. So, it’s ended up being pretty transparent surveillance after all. One entity looking at five billion people sounds very similar to a Panopticon to me.