Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

September 14, 2010

In Panopticon We Trust

Filed under: Futures,Privacy and Security — by Christopher Bellavita on September 14, 2010

In the late 18th century, Jeremy Bentham (of “greatest good for the greatest number” fame) wrote about the “panopticon”  —


According to the Bentham scholars at wikipedia:

The concept of the design is to allow an observer to observe (-opticon) all (pan-) prisoners without the incarcerated being able to tell whether they are being watched, thereby conveying what one architect [Silke Berit Lang] has called the “sentiment of an invisible omniscience.” Bentham … described the Panopticon as “a new mode of obtaining power of mind over mind, in a quantity hitherto without example.”

[The panopticon] design was invoked by Michel Foucault [in Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison] as [a] metaphor for modern “disciplinary” societies and their pervasive inclination to observe and [normalize]. Foucault proposes that not only prisons but all hierarchical structures like the army, schools, hospitals and factories have evolved through history to resemble Bentham’s Panopticon.”

The homeland security debate about privacy versus liberty focuses almost exclusively on how government erodes privacy rights.

Less emphasized (at least in my reading) is the role the private sector plays in privacy intrusions.  Maybe because many people voluntarily surrender privacy to the private sector, under the guise of increased efficiency, convenience, and choice — to say nothing of the difficulty determining what privacy you actually surrender if you have an account on Facebook or Google.

What will the future be like in this domain?  Will big brother arrive not with a government ID card, but with a cents-off coupon promise to make life better through interoperable data bases?


My colleague, Richard Bergin, brought the brief videos (below) to my attention.

The first (about 2 minutes long) is about ordering a pizza in the future.  Most of the information (in the scenario) comes from private sector data bases.

The second video (less than a minute) is a story about how radio frequency ID (RFID) will make life at the grocery store better for all of us.

The last video (around a minute) shows why every right thinking family man or woman would want to have one of these things implanted, as soon as possible.

Ordering pizza in the future

Shopping in the future

Making sure the health information needs of you and your loved ones are taken care of

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Comment by William R. Cumming

September 14, 2010 @ 7:03 am

It is of great interest to me that the marketing profession [can it be called that?] is the leader in the tracking of personal tastes and lifestyles. I watched some Johnny Carson and other TV personalities from the 50’s over the weekend on CD including TV ads. Amazing how primitive they look. At what point does “choice” disappear when the marketers take over? Subliminal seems the faintest of worries. So here is my new concept? Everyone is paid by all marketing efforts whenever they have there privacy invaded! Note who actually can enforce privacy rights! Almost no one since most privacy efforts have no citizen attorney general provisions. It is left to the state to enforce and we all know how willing the state is to enforce privacy rights against those who would abuse them. Try Google and FACEBOOK.

My guess is the next really big fight over privacy will be at birth when DNA samples are taken from each mother and child automatically for law enforcement purposes and perhaps child support.

I would argue that there is no privacy now but perhaps am wrong. Just remembering that because that word not mentioned in the Constitution took until Griswald v. Connecticut for the US SCOTUS to decide there was such a right. Perhaps a Constitutional convention is needed. Privacy issues should be taught in all professions and disclipines now.

Comment by John Comiskey

September 14, 2010 @ 7:37 am

Big brother is here -he need not be a bad brother.

As Mr. Cumming’s point outs, Griswald asserted privacy i.e. privacy is in the penumbra of the constitution. Roe v. Wade affirmed this.

Medical care and public health issues are best served by information sharing. This requires a great deal of privacy-invasions that might be ameliorated by anonymous data-mining techniques.

National Security, homeland defense, and law enforcement officials might need the same information to their ends.

The issue to resolve is how does a democratic society maintain a good-guy panopticon?

I believe you provided part of the answer: the information we are so willing to give to amazaon.com et al in the interest of efficiency extends to public health and particularly in the case of a pandemic.


September 15, 2010 @ 11:59 pm

Public service and private misery are inseparably linked together. Jefferson we trust. Bartenders can waste people while collecting intelligence and tips. Get wasted with a private bar next to a private pool. It beats the dead pool. It’s less social and more security. That’s losing some tens of billions a year to service billions and billions. Public as cattle and ground meat. 1,000 cows in one chain burger. Wash down with corn syrup for whole ball of wax. An old timer said too many people, too few livestock. More jobless benefits until the benefits of jobs run out. The country has a talent surplus and with a surplus you don’t always know what to do with it. Do what you want, I don’t care. You’re going to do what you want anyways and you should.


September 20, 2010 @ 7:34 am

Top Secret America corporations up for sale to high bidders, so we can have corporations from other countries billing us for national security. Cubans will be doing finger and heart printing with new operations in Florida. It’s now legal to make pinatas and repair toys in Cuba. Iran has first dibs on the future according to Iran. Looks like you’ll be passing through airport security at JFK with clearance from Iranian airport scanners. I guess the Iraqis will be operating the control towers and the French will as usual handle airport food concessions. The Greeks figured out a way to run the jets on Vasoline too. Looks like a long cold winter. Don’t worry, Joe and Hugo will have fuel trucks running Citgo oil to every busted and broke American with a boiler and no oil for homeland energy security, so it is warm where you are going.

I’m busy here with flame less new technology because less can be more more or less. The sun is UV and if it’s good enough for God, the hell with gas flames. The Moon ain’t going to fall out of the heavens. Avoid the explosive stuff. They’ve gone from blowing up buildings to blowing up dollars then wondering where all the dollars have gone. They need to blow up the shale to get at the gas using the water to carry the poison. They need to refill the coffers. Looks more like refilling coffins to get that last BBQ in before it’s time to shut her down. Have a recreational fire and do more peer review and less beer review. Stay warm undercover instead of underground. Two to a bed is better. At times you need to be like a baby and sleep alone in the crib. He’s watching over them. Washington is a mess.

Your hat is safer on your head in a crowded elevator. Buy an American hat. Most heat is lost out of the head. Avoid head colds TSA Ink. Chest colds can be a bigger problem, so wear a warm vest and keep vested in the future. It belongs to the vest and best shield, secure at Camp VBS. God bless.

P.S. Get the kids new vests. We got the UShields not for sale. Keep cleaning the fish oil. Fun and the bay o nets not for sale.

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