Ten Theses on Surveillance

I looked in the rearview mirror and saw a camera. Not one of those “gotcha” traffic light cameras, just a guy on his cell phone recording the world going by from behind the wheel (no comment on the insane hazard he made himself). I have no idea what he wanted to accomplish, and his recording is none of my business…or is it?

Maybe he was simply trying to share a nice sunset with (given his driving choices) his soon-to-be-bereaved family, but now he’s got a bunch of license plate numbers (including mine) eternally residing in iCloud or Google Drive. Privacy these days is a relative thing, to be sure, and I seriously doubt anyone will ever find any relevant use for Mr. Steer-and-Shoot’s artistry. Still, it has prompted some further reflection on the ubiquity of surveillance exercised on citizens of the modern world and the lack of attention most of us pay it.

When we each voluntarily post hundreds (or thousands) of photos and videos bearing our likeness in public spaces, being recorded is as human an experience today as breathing. We may grouse a bit, depending on who is behind the camera, but mostly we don’t even notice anymore. Why worry? What do we have to fear if we’re doing nothing wrong? In the main, very little. On consideration, everything.

He's watchin' you...
He’s watchin’ you…

I am neither a Luddite nor the son of a Luddite, but responsible wariness is the better part of wisdom. That said, here are, in no particular order, some thoughts on the subject.
1) God sees all and knows all. This seems the foundation stone of any discussion on surveillance. All things private or public, down to the thoughts and intentions of our hearts (Rev. 2:23), are alike an open book before our Lord. Seeking protection for parts of our lives from the eyes and ears of others is right and natural, but nothing is hidden from His sight. Privacy exists to protect virtue, not to conceal vice.

2) Man will always only ever know in part. This is the counterpoint to the previous observation, underlaying our moral standards (rejecting gossip, for example) and jurisprudence (requiring multiple witnesses for conviction of crime). We are not God and must weigh our knowledge and actions accordingly. Continue reading