“Surveillance as understood here exists on a long continuum along which data is collected and processed for a range of purposes from policing and security to consumption and entertainment. It produces categorical suspicion…at one end and categorical seduction …at the other.” In reference to Lyons suggestion that data-subjects are placed into set categories due to surveillance, it would be reasonable to say that the government objectives are more risk management orientated and thus focussed on the ‘data-subject’ falling into the area of categorical suspicion. The government initially want to reduce congestion, crime, tax evasion, traffic accidents and pollution. Therefore it appears that EVI as a means to increase surveillance and achieve these objectives can only be regarded as a positive.
The Governments aim is to implement a system that firstly fulfils their primary objectives. Once their requirements are fulfilled, they will investigate how EVI could be integrated into some value added services. Opportunities will arise for the analysis of EVI data for more commercially orientated purposes, as part of the incremental development. Although I believe that the government will need to harness interest from commercial organisations in both the automotive industry and insurance industry in order to help finance the project.
The objectives of the proposed EVI applications have various pro’s and con’s. The positive objectives relating to reducing congestion, preventing accidents through the use of Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) and crime prevention all appear very sensible. However, many people are sceptical about the means of achieving these objectives for example: will plans to reduce congestion simply result in more toll roads, will the reduction of accidents come from greatly increased regulation of speed limits, and will crime prevention be due to the increased level of surveillance of the general public. EVI sceptics are concerned that if every car fitted with an ‘on-board informer’, all drivers will be categorised as potential suspects and therefore monitored.
I believe that the Governments top level objectives of introducing EVI are closely related to governance, power and control. Increased surveillance will allow people to be categorised in terms of risk and opportunity more effectively. The linkage of EVI applications with existing databases will provide the platform for far superior systems. If the Government can also introduce a national ID card, their level of control will be further increased.
EVI further bolsters the capabilities of surveillance nationally and possible across Europe. Bearing in mind the existing information infrastructure that enables networked communications between a vast number of databases holding information regarding debit card transactions, records of phone calls, to health records – EVI is another very powerful ‘plug-in’ in this sense. In the next section I am going to address the topic of ethics in relation surveillance and the introduction of EVI.
Ethics There is currently much discussion and debate surrounding the ethical issues regarding the continued increase in levels of surveillance. New technologies such as RIFD, EVI and national ID cards are all under close inspection by Governments and public bodies around the world. Also planned developments by Microsoft and Intel involving there so called ‘Trustworthy Computing’ initiative is raising concern.
“On the 100th anniversary of George Orwell’s Birth, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates said that the author of Nineteen Eighty-four was only partially correct, and predicted that technology will help preserve privacy rights.” Gates .B also said that Orwell’s dystopian vision of the future, in which Big Brother used technology as a form of social control,” didn’t come true, and I don’t believe it will.” Although, surveillance isn’t used by a central totalitarian government for centralised social control and is instead a more decentralised dispersed network of surveillance systems. In my opinion it is increasingly used for power and control. Therefore it is worrying to hear concerns highlighted by Lyon that: “such systems are a largely uninspected and unregulated means of social classification, of social ordering”.
He goes on to say categorisation of data-subjects “affect people’s chances and there choices” in life. This is because analysis carried out on data through the process of data-mining and data-matching is influenced by witch categories data-subject have been placed in. Michel Foucault called this method of “making up people up by classifying them according to categories” Biopower.
The issue of social categorisation highlighted, needs to be investigated further in-terms of its ethical robustness as a foundation for future development of surveillance systems. For example, what categories will be created to support EVI applications? Will everyone who owns a vehicle be under suspicion of speeding? EVI and surveillance in general has produced some fierce moral arguments like the right to privacy. The government have to make important ethical decisions about how to implement EVI in order to “curb the negative perception that Big Brother is Watching You”xii. The feasibility study being carried out is looking into the issue of ‘privacy’ in order to dispel these fears. Although Lyons suggest that “considering only personal fears about privacy distract us from the public issues surrounding surveillance” Lyon.
These two issues span many applications of surveillance technology and they are issues that the government will need to address when considering the ethical implications of implementing EVI. The Government could draw upon a philosophical perspective on ethics such as those explained in Ayers. Although, would following a particular ethical approach, be suitable? I intend to consider how the two highlighted issues would fair under each approach.
Firstly, consequential approaches to ethical situations like the traditional Utilitarian method, are based on abstract calculations (happiness = pleasure – pain) to find out which option would provide the most happiness. For example, would increased privacy that prevented data-mining and direct marketing techniques increase happiness or reduce total happiness. The answer is impossible to calculate using this rudimentary calculation. The original method was developed further by J.S.Mills, and often referred to as ‘act-utilitarianism’. However, there were still many criticisms of the method expressed clearly in the example of a ‘salami fraud’. This example is similar to the situation of surveillance and the right to privacy. It could be argued that many organisations benefit from surveillance techniques and categorisation, and that the data-subject feels little ‘pain’ (happiness = pleasure – pain) and therefore surveillance is ethically right.
Thereafter, ‘rule- utilitarianism’ was developed to quash previous criticisms but was unsuccessful. Another criticism was concerning the feasibility of measuring outcomes in terms of pleasure or pain, for example how can freedom or in this case ‘privacy’ be measured in comparison to receiving a high salary. “The things that people seek and value are surely diverse as to make comparisons between them impossible.” Ayers p179.
An alternative set of theories highlighted by Ayers are ‘Duty theories’ of ethical decision making. These predate utilitarianism; they were advocated by the German Philosopher Immanuel Kant in the eighteenth century. Duty theories aren’t traditionally concerned with consequences because as Kant believed it was the “intention behind acts that made them good or bad, rather than their particular consequences” Ayers. This was based on the principle of ‘categorical imperative’.
“Act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will, that it should become a universal law” Ayers. This echoes many religions principles such as “do unto others as they should do unto you”. The theory firmly suggest that people should make decisions based on there duty to do so, but also consider universalization. Using this perspective doesn’t make it any easier when considering the issues relating to ‘privacy’ or ‘biopower’ because the decision relates to that person [the decision makers] personal opinion of privacy or ‘biopower’ and this may differ from general opinions.
In summary I would suggest that governments should favour a consequential approach, although I am not recommending they use a strict utilitarian method for ethical decision making. The issues of categorisation highlighted by Lyon, does need further investigation. However, in my personal evaluation when adopting a utilitarian method, I would suggest that there is potentially more benefit (happiness) to society as a whole from surveillance, than there is for potential unhappiness.
No real signs of unhappiness have come from the increase in surveillance as yet, in less you take on board those people who like me, have been caught speeding by cameras , which isn’t a particularly joyful experience. Basically if your innocent you’ve got nothing to hide!, this what I believe is the real issue and to what degree it becomes true will be the deciding factor to whether EVI and surveillance is ethically right. Obviously, there is a fine line, reduction in crime is beneficial, however if it is at the cost of human liberty and privacy, the cost may be too high. Only the future can decide tell. Therefore, bearing this in mind, it emphasises the difficulties in predicting the consequences of ones actions or decisions, in part it justifies the fundamentals of Duty theory.
When adopting a Duty approach, once again I personally feel that EVI and other surveillance techniques should continue to be implemented. This relates to my opinion of privacy and also categorisation of data-subjects because I have trust in the government and thus believe that surveillance will only be used for improving society as a whole. This brings my conclusion that I agree with Jean-Paul Sartre, in that “all ethical decisions are ultimately personal”. (referenced in Lyonp267). This is because in my opinion and maxims I decide to employ, even considering universalization, are still personal and may not provide consequential happiness because I may have very idealistic views on this subject compared to other members of the population.
Therefore I suggest that the government need to investigate the ethical issues of categorisation further and allow for more transparency of such categories. Abstract: it is a dire shame that even with advancing surveillance techniques and focussed on categorical suspicion and CBR checks that a ‘monster’ like Ian Huntely can still get a job as a school caretaker primarily due to the misinterpretation / confusion caused by contradictions in the Data Protection Act. Did someone make the ethical decision that his past history should be kept private, in order to protect his privacy; or were they following a set of contradictory codes of conduct! Or was it simply a mistake. Either way hopefully this type of mistake will never happen again.