What is Panoptykon

The Panoptykon Foundation was established in 2009 as a grassroots initiative by a group of young people who refused to treat new technologies as a cure-all. We spoke up and began raising awareness that new technologies make tracking and surveillance by the state and big business easier than ever before. We showed that the Internet had created new threats against freedom and privacy. Such a point of view had not been present in the public debate of the time.

We started monitoring draft bills regulating the Internet and database use. We kept a watchful eye on institutions that grabbed more and more of people’s information. Panoptykon first intervened in a case of extensive collection of data from persons using Warsaw public transport.

With time, we convinced more and more people that our diagnosis and stipulations really made sense. Some decided to support us with their money, knowledge and action. Thanks to them, we have built an organization from the ground up, one that is now thriving and recognized in Poland and internationally.

The Foundation’s ironic name was inspired by the idea of the panopticon, invented in the 1700s by Jeremy Bentham. It is a design of a prison building with cells arranged in a circle around a central guard tower. This way, the inmates would never know when the guard was looking their way, and would have to behave as if they were being watched at all times.

Projekt Panoptikonu, 1791

The French philosopher Michel Foucault considered the panopticon as a useful metaphor for our reality in which people live under constant surveillance and lose their freedom even outside prison walls. The panopticon’s presence in the Foundation’s name is supposed to evoke the dark side of new technologies, which enable their owners to track you secretly and constantly.