Anti surveillance activism in an Orwellian age ? In these terror ridden times the focus of the debate tend to be about how far we should go in curtailing civil liberties. How much government surveillance is reasonable to combat criminals. How the internet is kept safe from terrorists, fraudsters and madmen. How plots and plans are spotted by intelligence agencies in advance by monitoring individuals and communities.
State Surveillance in Denmark
In Denmark it seems a small but insistent movement is attempting to turn the tide. New police cameras placed along highways in Denmark automatically register number-plates of passing drivers. Store the data and analyze the records of the drivers.
Obviously this is a classic surveillance versus freedom dilemma. A system registering and analyzing everything, suspected of wrongdoing or not, is most likely useful in tracking, finding and following people of interest. Equally clearly however such indiscriminate government surveillance without court orders or even suspicion of a crime committed is a fundamental violation of basic civil liberties considered a given not long ago.
A Danish activist, or group of activists, have decided to take matters into their own hands smashing up one of these new police cameras with a hammer. The event was filmed by the activists and spread on social media. Obviously the intention being to make the efforts and resistance to government surveillance go viral. That mission was successful. Not only is the Danish ends of Facebook, Reddit and Twitter flooded with debates about the smashing of the cameras, the Danish media picked up the story too with interviews in the biggest Danish tabloid Ekstra Bladet, a front page feature (ironically) on the Danish State TV website and many smaller outlets beside.
In a bizarre and rather courageous twist the activist wielding the hammer and destroying the police camera followed the viral news of his actions by publicly turning himself in. Thus of course maximizing the media coverage of the event.
The effect was not long in waiting. On the evening of these events a seemingly different activist picked up the mantle and destroyed the box controlling all these police cameras.
Anti Surveillance Activism
What is the point of anti-surveillance activism in particular and the small but seemingly growing movement to re-expand civil liberties ? Well. That is the point. For decades all problems in society have been met with laws, regulation and control. Thus slowly eroding civil liberties. Recent waves of terror attacks around the world has been utilized into upping the demand for safety through surveillance.
These are phenomenons and developments that the activists and debaters aim to combat and reverse. At first sight Sisyphus task of enormous proportions. Western democracies of today employ surveillance, control and intelligence collection on a level that could be said to transform George Orwells 1984 novel into run-of-the-mill social realism had it been written today.
Are these activists modern day freedom fighters or vandals ? That is entirely up to eye of the beholder. We have slowly but certainly lost the civil liberties our Western democracies were founded on in past decades and the development seems to only escalate. Liking the methods or not, putting the spotlight on this fact is an important and necessary task.
Anti-surveillance activism in an Orwellian age ? Terror ridden times breed curtailing of civil liberties. How much government surveillance is reasonable?
You can follow the anti surveillance activists directly via their twitter feed – @OnTheRun