The internet has added another dimension to the existing mass surveillance done by the government and the corporate. Recent development in the way in which internet has digitized our life has heightened the discussion of mass surveillance amongst the scholars. And today with the Snowden leak this issue has found a space in the public discussion. The mass surveillance has been in discussion amongst these groups because it contributes to some sort of social order such as giving citizens protection and certain social benefits on one hand at the same time keeping the masses under control on the other (Lyon, 2001).
The Electronic mass surveillance has been part of our life for a long time, but has always remained underground. Mass surveillance has a long history from surveillance being used for religious extremism to the Soviet bloc using it as a tool during the cold war. It begins with record keeping and now continues with the latest new technology of spying (Lauer, 2011). We had many studies in surveillance in the 20th century, but few in the early years, giving us an impression that it is linked to modern technology (Lauer, 2011). Since then it has been used as a tool by the powerful group to dictate their way and to have some social order in the society.
There are two approaches to study mass surveillance one is Panoptic and other is the non –Panoptic approach. To some extent mass surveillance can act as a way to discipline people and keep them under control. Some authors approach surveillance in a non-Panoptic mode where surveillance has positive aspects like protection and security, and everyone have an opportunity carry out surveillance (Allmer, 2012).
This essay seeks to remedy this question by analyzing both the point of views. In Panoptical view this essay will look at the ways in which the state uses its power to do the surveillance and how it justifies to the citizens their behaviour. It later supports the arguments by using the laws and the media as a tool to further states interest over that of the public. In non-panoptical point of view this essay will look at positive side of mass surveillance. This essay will further look at the shortcoming of both the points of views and try to provide some recommendations to resolve this issue in the benefit of the citizens.
A panoptic approach can be supported by the way in which state try to use the power to sustain their position. Firstly, mass collection of data by the state is nothing but an economic warfare where states indulge in surveillance to gain economic benefits over the other countries and try to protect their own economy (Brown, 2013). For example, the Snowden leaks show the example of the US government spying on Brazil’s largest oil company Petrobras, which is a major source of revenue for the Brazilian government (Watts, 2013). This makes it clear that mass surveillance thus goes far beyond its expected boundary of protecting people of potential terrorist attacks.