Thursday, April 12, 2007


Two events today, both concerning surveillance cameras, have filled me with feelings of disillusionment. What a sad and depressing place this world is!

First, I walked the few hundred meters from my home to my local supermarket. I noticed that I was observed by at least 6 surveillance cameras (in UK called CCTV), and I know not how many more.

Secondly, according to this Danmarks Radio article, there is now a majority in the Danish Parliament in favour of increased TV surveillance of public spaces.

Until now it has been illegal, according to 'Lov om forbud mod tv-overvågning' (Law on the ban against TV-surveillance), for either private or public enterprises to "engage in TV-surveillance of streets, roads, public squares or the like that are used for public traffic." Exceptions to this rule has been limited to “petrol stations, industrial areas, covered shopping centres and similar areas with economic activity as long as the surveillance is carried out by the legal owner of the area.”

The new bill will allow shops and businesses to install cameras monitoring its premises facade, as well as street in front of it. According to Justiceminister Lene Espersen the TV surveillance will make it easier for police to solve crime.

The problems with surveillance cameras:.
While the effectiveness of surveillance camera's are subject to much debate among sociologists and criminologists, the important question is not, in my opinion, the effectiveness surveillance, but the effect it has on society.

Constant TV surveillance is, in my opinion, a serious violation the right to privacy. A right that should be recognised as an essential element of a free society. The argument that law abiding individuals have nothing to fear from being watched is therefore missing the point. Surveillance is sanction without transgression of the law.

Worse, surveillance has a devastating effect on society. George Orwell understood this and used his novel 1984, to illustrate how surveillance is the essence of totalitarianism. Similarly Jeremy Benthem invented the Panopticon, a prison in which inmates can always be observed, as "a new mode of obtaining power of mind over mind, in a quantity hitherto without example"(see Bentham "Panopticon"). Foucoult, in 'Punishment and Discipline' (New York, Random House, 1975), used Bentham's Panopticon as a metaphor for the control society. For Foucoult control is exercised by an individual knowing that they at all times may be observed, not in the act itself.

In short, surveillance is the death of freedom.

Surveilance cameras are, however, extremely popular. This is true in Denmark, in Britain, in Germany, almost everywhere. My heart aches. I cannot take it anymore.


At 13 April, 2007 12:26, Blogger Charles said...

Torsten, You will probably either laugh out loud at this notion, or start packing your bags. I have a solution. Move to the USA! Sure, there is some surveillance in the big cities, but the rest of us live camera free.

Plus, you two would be welcome members of a raging economy (wink wink! - Kiersten said I had to put the wink in there), and perhaps could add some reasoning power to the DNC. They need your brain power, Torsten. Seriously. They need your help. :-)

At 13 April, 2007 20:07, Blogger Torsten Pedersen said...

Thanks for invitation Charles.

As to the DNC, they seem to be very good at not knowing what they stand for on their own!

What is the situation with surveilance camera's in the US? You mention camera's in larger cities. Are local governments, police or business freely allowed any regulation to install CCTV in public places? Or is it highly regulated? Are there any Constitutional implementations?

As you can read its an issue that really gets me going.

At 13 April, 2007 22:40, Blogger Charles said...

I was saying that you would be GOOD for the DNC because you seem to KNOW what you stand for and what you stand against. What I have read over the past 6 or so months is steady, solid and not wishy-washy. You are NOT a flip-flopper and you have many sound arguments. Unlike many in the DNC, you actually have sensible logic and know what you are talking about. I respect that very much.

Now, concerning surveillance laws, I don't have all the answers. I know the big cities like Miami, Boston, Chicago, NY, etc. (ironically all DNC strongholds) have numerous surveillance cameras - specifically designed for crime reduction/prevention. Whether or not the local governments have another agenda could be left for further research. I will have to get back to you...

Cheers, mate! (I know you are not in Australia, I just like how it sounds!)


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