It does. From very practical ones (such as personalized services) and more psychological ones (such as a sense of control or affinity). The price does not seem excessive, as contemporary tools of control are usually not very inconvenient. It is hard for us to stand a scrutinizing look of a person observing us or a detailed personal search, but we quite easily accept „the sight” of a CCTV camera or a body scanner. A majority of us do not even notice new surveillance measures, which results in a situation where they become more and more common beyond the social control. We still do not understand the threats related to them and we cannot defend ourselves against them. As a society, we have not yet developed the proper mechanisms of defence. Nor even a language appropriate to describe the new phenomena.
Big Brother remains the most resonant metaphor of surveillance. Unfortunately, the Orwellian vision of an omnipotent state, based on the information monopoly and profoundly controlling the lives of its citizens, does not allow to grasp all contemporary challenges. Our reality is very often closer to the realities of the television show Big Brother, who does not keep anyone in confinement anymore and does not enforce obedience, but selects and gets rid of people, evoking the fear of exclusion. Contemporary surveillance is also more ubiquitous, dispersed, liquid. The source of oppression is not just the omnipotent state – when withdrawing from subsequent domains of life, the state shared its power with business (slipping out of the social control). Instead, it gladly uses information about us, collected on a mass scale by private companies.
Risk management became the key method of controlling the surrounding reality. This refers not only to managing the population or a customer database, but also public security. In accordance with the new paradigm, it is not about identification of an individual who committed something wrong, but about predicting the future. The new tools are used to monitor the society, to allocate people – on the basis of their specific features and behaviours – to different risk groups and tracking potentially dangerous individuals. According to this philosophy, each one of us is a potential suspect. However, we do not gain much in terms of security. Reality stubbornly escapes the most ingenious algorithms and remains unpredictable.
Our world gradually sinks into the obsession of fear. The constant increase of surveillance is meant to help us protect ourselves from it. Step by step, we resign from various dimensions of our freedom, hoping that this will ensure greater safety for us. It is often in vain. The alternative "either freedom or security" is simply false. Surveillance may increase safety and security, nevertheless, equally often it serves entirely different – political or financial – aims. We should at least be aware of that situation.