Smile You’re on Candid Camera, Web, Phone, Social…

In a TED Talk: “Why privacy matters”, Glenn Greenwald compares Jeremy Bentham’s 18th-century architectural design originally intended to be implemented in prisons that he called the Panopticon with the world Orwell is talking about in “1984”, a world in which people are not being watched all the time but one in which people could be watched at any moment.

The concept behind the Panopticon is to allow a single watchman to observe inmates of an institution without the inmates being able to tell whether or not they are being watched. The fact that the inmates cannot know when they are being watched means that all inmates must act as though they are watched at all times, effectively controlling their own behaviour constantly which would be the ultimate enforcer for obedience and compliance.”


The Panopticon must not be understood as a dream building: it is the diagram of a mechanism of power reduced to its ideal form. Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish, 1977

The 20th-century French philosopher Michel Foucault proposed taking this concept one step further, using it not just in prisons but in any institution that seeks to control human behavior. Foucault reasoned that with this new means of societal control for modern societies there was no longer the need for overt weapons of tyranny — punishing or imprisoning or killing dissidents.

In the TED talk, Greenwald elaborates, “Mass surveillance creates a prison in the mind that is a much more subtle though much more effective means of fostering compliance with social norms or with social orthodoxy, much more effective than brute force could ever be,” adding that, “A society in which people can be monitored at all times is a society that breeds conformity and obedience and submission, which is why every tyrant, the most overt to the most subtle, craves that system. Conversely, even more importantly, it is a realm of privacy, the ability to go somewhere where we can think and reason and interact and speak without the judgmental eyes of others being cast upon us, in which creativity and exploration and dissent exclusively reside, and that is the reason why, when we allow a society to exist in which we’re subject to constant monitoring, we allow the essence of human freedom to be severely crippled.”

A Snowden documentary by Laura Poitras with Glenn Greenwald called “CITIZENFOUR” won the 2015 Oscar for best documentary. Collecting the award, Poitras said: “The disclosures of Edward Snowden don’t only expose a threat to our privacy but to our democracy itself. When the decisions that rule us are taken in secret we lose the power to control and govern ourselves.” CITIZENFOUR chronicled the revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden that burgeoned into the wider NSA spying scandal. The Guardian and the Washington Post simultaneously began publishing Snowden’s leaked information in June 2013, with both publications winning a Pulitzer Prize in 2014 for Public Service journalism.

Featured Art “Big Bugger” – Illustration By Nagui

Panopticon image courtesy:

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