Equiveillance

equiveillance

Equiveillance is a state of equilibrium, or a desire to attain a state of equilibrium, between surveillance (third-person recording) and sousveillance (first-person recording). This balance allows the individual to construct their own case from evidence they gather themselves, rather than merely having access to surveillance data that could possibly incriminate them. It is sometimes confused with transparency (accessibility and understandability of information). Sousveillance, in addition to transparency, can be used to preserve the contextual integrity of surveillance data.

For example, a lifelong capture of personal experience could provide ‘best evidence’ over external surveillance data, to prevent the surveillance-only data from being taken out of context. Equiveillance also represents a situation where all parties of a society or economy are empowered to be able to use the tools of accountability to make beneficial decisions. Humanity has always sought to establish authority relationships: the increasing trend to record information from our environment, and of ourselves creates the need to delineate the relationships between privacy, surveillance, and sousveillance.

The emphasis on ubiquitous computing is to be contrasted with wearable computing. As personal cell phones store more information and have the capacity to share it, wearable and mobile computing will make manifest the ability for an individual, or small group of individuals, to monitor larger institutional systems with the goal of developing systems of transparency and accountability. For just as large institutions, such as governments or corporations, store information about the buying habits of the public through an integrated surveillance highway that has a ubiquitous computing infrastructure, individuals can act as consumer activists though a system of inverse surveillance that is based upon a wearable computing infrastructure that assists in maximizing personal privacy and alerting one of information being recorded about the self. Such actions could lead to an equiveillant state, as power and respect are shared.

Ubiquitous computing, also known as pervasive computing, is the integration of computers with the environment. Ubiquitous computing tends to rely on cooperation of the immediate infrastructure in the environment, but also has a tendency to centralize information, and hence, centralize authority structures. It also creates segregation, and has implications for social rights such as education and healthcare. Individuals are sorted and classified within a ubiquitous computing environment, leading to a new form of segregation. Ubiquitous computing also places emphasis on copyright law and undermines creative environments due to the controlling tendencies of authority. Wearable computing, refers to portable, wearable computing technologies. Wearcomp doesn’t require any special infrastructure in the environment, as the computer is self-contained and self-reliant. With sousveillant computing, it is possible for the focus of control to be more distributed rather than centralized.

Panoptic surveillance was described by Michel Foucault in the context of a prison in which prisoners were isolated from each other but visible at all times by guards. Surveillance tends to isolate individuals from one another while setting forth a one-way visibility to authority figures. This isolation leads to social fragmentation. By comparison, sousveillance has a community-based origin, such as a personal electronic diary (or weblog), made public on the World Wide Web. Sousveillance tends to bring together individuals, by influencing a large city to function more like a small town: with the pitfalls of gossip, but also the benefits of a sense of community participation. There is a greater degree of responsibility in a sousveillance environment.

A free society is one which places emphasis on respect and the balance of power: in a democratic society, respect and power are shared and well distributed, whereas in a despotic community, respect and power are not shared and are restricted to the few. Increasingly, our society is confronted with the realization of a ubiquitous computing environment, with the infrastructure predicated upon sensor and surveillance systems to function despite efforts to stop such expansions. How we participate in sharing respect and power will converge with how our society conducts surveillance of its citizens, and how citizens conduct sousveillance. Equiveillance represents a harmonious balance that maximizes human freedom, individual rights as well as communal democracy. To have a society within which personal freedoms and justice are equally distributed, transparency is needed. Transparency increasingly will require dealing with the issues of ubiquitous computing and wearable computing, and maintaining a balance between surveillance and inverse surveillance while maximizing personal privacy.

Equiveillance represents a balance of the power relationships that surveillance and sousveillance touch upon. When there is an imbalance, social consequences can range from loss of privacy, to unrest and political instability. The idea of disequiveillance is described by Paul Virilio in his treatise on Dromology (the study of speed) and the possibility of freedom loss as an accident of our modern world  (particularly in light of terrorism and constant war). In this context, the lack of equiveillance (disequiveillance) refers to the anthropological consequences of a world filled with continuous recording devices that encourage a despotic form of government.

The evolving field of sousveillance, stems in part from recent research on the topic of surveillance and inverse-surveillance, shedding light on how media technology is changing our sense of privacy and human freedom. Privacy becomes a measure of freedom and its control central to personal autonomy. Increasingly, remembering is influenced by both personal and public search engines, as computing is dependent upon the human–computer interaction. The issue of being able to control the amount of personal information that escapes and is recorded in the many machines that make up evolving ubiquitous computing stresses the importance of equiveillance. The impact of surveillance is felt all the more give the impact of exponential growth in computer storage space and data mining processing speed.

A recent article by second wife of the late Greek Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou, Margaret Papandreou entitled ‘Is nothing Sacred’ also highlights the issue of disequiveillance and how the theft of personal communications with her son undermined her freedom of thought. Mrs Papandreou’s personal computer was entered by hackers with malicious intent, with multiple emails, and personal information downloaded and eventually published in book form. The issue of freedom of the press, vs theft of personal property and electronic trespassing, developed into a subsequent legal action against the journalist and member of the Greek Parliament, Liana Kanelli. The issue of public vs. private space comes into the debate. The practice of spying as a political technique creates a flashback to how previous Greek politicians were undermined via covert eavesdropping in the decades of the Greek Civil War. The complexity of this case becomes twofold when the person surveillanced is a concerned citizen, and not a politician. Furthermore, the issue of taking personal electronic communication out of context for political and financial gain creates the issue of disequiveillance. This can happen on a personal level, or on a larger social, or institutional level.

‘The correspondence, which included e-mails, was published in late 2000 and early 2001, in the ‘Nemesis’ magazine, which was run by journalist and MP Liana Kanelli. It was unclear how Kanelli laid hands on the letters, in which the US-born Papandreou advised the FM on his political career, urging him to make use of non-governmental organizations such as the Andreas Papandreou Foundation and the Andreas Papandreou Institute for Strategic and Development Studies. ‘Nemesis’ claimed Papandreou had been trying to influence Greek politics.” quote from article critical of Mrs Margaret Papandreou

The foundations of human freedom also are rooted in the idea of social contract. Biased comments from the conclusion of documents obtained without a search warrant, and against the principles of legal procedure create an unfair forum for judging and condemnation and expose some of the problems of how electronic freedom can be misused. It also exposes how social instability can rapidly cause a society to evolve into a prison state. Order is maintained in systematic dissolvement of freedom towards a government that operates more like a prison rather than a body of persons made up of ‘free individuals’ with an overemphasis of everyone watching everyone, with anyone becoming an informant for whatever side that may be competing for power. Unbalanced surveillance, and disequiveillance can rapidly deevolve society towards the en-masse phenomena such as racism, scapegoating, and even mob reactions towards an individual. It is also of importance to realize that justice is not rooted in vengeance, but rather, the law.

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