Releasing Privacy

Jeremy Bentham designed the Panopticon prison where there was a single layer of cells on the inside border of the building that faced inward. The “wall” facing inwards was barred so it was see-through so that the inmates could be watched by the guard in the watch tower in the center of the round complex (“Panopticon.”). This setup was to allow all of the inmates to be under constant surveillance. Technology such as CCTV and phone tracking in the 21st century has changed the idea of being under constant surveillance.

Typically, we give up some of our privacy for safety. Things like CCTVs can be used to help solve many types of incidents from car accidents to tracking where a murder suspect has been. We give up the privacy of our location in case something happens. Also, in court cases, phone records can be looked at. It is a breach of privacy, but it can be argued that it is for the greater good. This relates to the idea of the Hobbesian jungle. Without releasing some of our control, the world would be dangerous and in constant chaos. Though Leviathan is not specifically talking about giving up privacy, the idea still applies. Another thing we give our privacy up for is entertainment. Cell towers and Wi-Fi networks can be used for tracking as was stated by Edward Snowden. While cell phones can be used as a measure of safety, that is usually not their main use. They are used for connection through phone calls as well as social media. When we download and sign up for apps, we have to agree to their privacy conditions, but often people don’t read them. They could be signing away parts of their privacy, but they don’t care because they are getting whatever it is they were seeking from the app.

It is hard to say how much privacy I am willing to surrender because I don’t think I truly understand how much I have already given up. I can tell I have given up any privacy at all due to receiving targeted ads. It has happened before where I have just mentioned something and then I started to see ads about it. I believe I am willing to give up a good portion of my privacy. I don’t want to live in a glass house or anything, but having devices such as Alexas means that we have already given up a portion of our privacy within our homes. As for a reward, I expect to receive the things I gave my privacy up for such as safety and entertainment. There is no way of telling whether they will use the data they are able to get from us for good things, but then again how can we tell what is considered a good thing? Like Snowden was saying, it was used during COVID for contact tracing, but how effective was it? Was it a good use of our data?

“Panopticon.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.,

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