Help from big brother


Michael Bruner shows the video of an orb he captured with his surveillance camera on Selzer Street in Akron, Ohio, October 18, 2013.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department sent a civilian aircraft to secretly capture video of the entire city of Compton in a test of mass surveillance, according to The Atlantic.

After I first read the article’s headline, I pictured a futuristic, dystopian Judge Dredd society in which the Public Surveillance Unit is tasked with monitoring the civilian population.

I then pictured a plethora of screens and monitors plastered throughout the city with talking heads spewing pro-authority propaganda and withholding sinister operations from the public.

Then I read the article.

The test was carried out sans the knowledge of Compton’s residents, according to LA County sheriff’s Sgt. Doug Iketani, who supervised the project.

“A lot of people do have a problem with the eye in the sky, the Big Brother,” Iketani said in an article by the Center for Investigative Reporting. “So in order to mitigate any of those kinds of complaints, we basically kept it pretty hush-hush.”

Slick move, Iketani. Because when I first read of this secret domestic spying procedure, I was ready to sound my social media alarm and prepare my 230 Twitter followers to rage with me against the monitoring government machine.

But, as much as I initially want to lash out at this knowledge in full protest of government intrusion and obstruction of civil liberties, when I stop and really consider our current state of surveillance, my reaction becomes less “rebel!” and more “ah, well.”

Let me explain.

As I’m typing this column at my local Starbucks, my web research is likely being tracked and recorded by Google, my cellphone’s GPS pinpoints my current location, and as far as I’m concerned, one of my crazy ex-girlfriends could be on her way to exact revenge upon me thanks to the location services on my Twitter and Facebook posts.

See, we’re already actively living in a modern surveillance state. Traffic cameras, security cameras, satellite cameras, and even civilian cameras are capable of tracking our daily activity at all times. Add to the aforementioned realities that the NSA is capable of hacking into pretty much anywhere it pleases, and we’ve got ourselves a foundation for what could be an intimidating big brother society.

The key here, though, is the big brother society is a possibility, not a reality.

Both promotion of and opposition to the surveillance of an entire providence seem to boil down to a matter of trust. Do we or do we not trust our government or policing force to withhold the integrity of their good intentions when carrying out such actions as watching crime scenes from the sky?

The idea of an all-seeing government just seems inherently suspicious, I know. But, I think if we’re going to be subject to the constant possibility of our actions being monitored by someone somewhere, why not let our lack of privacy be put to good use and save some lives with it?

The LA Times implements a Compton crime tracker on its website. The spy plane was not disclosed to Compton residents because there are already cameras on the ground monitoring public areas in the city, according to the LA Times. Is a camera in the sky with the purpose of finding criminals really too intrusive?

There were 35 shootings in Chicago during a single weekend last month, according to CBS News. It’s in places like this where I doubt innocent shooting victims and their parents would be egregiously opposed to crime-stopping measures such as cameras in the sky to aid those on the ground.

Do I support the loss of civilian privacy at the hands of an intrusive government? No. Is it happening anyway? Yes, quite possibly. That’s not to say we’re all being meticulously hounded.

My web visits to the LA Times, IGN, and wherever else are being recorded by Google and my location is being tracked by Twitter, Facebook, and in all likelihood, my ex-girlfriend. The security, traffic and police cameras scattered everywhere could watch me, as they evolve into a Dredd-esque dystopian spy agency. But why would they?

We’re already in the midst of a surveillance state. We may as well let the powers that be catch a few criminals as a result of it. In the meantime, to make up for backing out of that rebellion, I’ll post a selfie of me at this Starbucks down the street from my house for all of Twitter to see. It’s been a few hours since my last one. 

– Fletcher Bailey is a junior communication major from Seattle. He can be contacted at 335-2290 or by The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the staff of The Daily Evergreen or those of Student Publications.