Race, Surveillance and Technology

The lecture on race, surveillance and technology captured my attention in a way that no other lecture this semester had.  I very much appreciate Ms. Simone Browne’s candid approach to this very difficult subject and the compelling discussions that followed, as well as the discussion with Zach Blas around protecting privacy during the informative workshop that followed. 

The abhorrent history of the branding of slaves, both on eastern and western shores provides a reference to understand corporal punishment and the mass categorizations of human beings as “other” as a societal norm.  Given this background, so long as there is this notion of “otherness”, it is concerning that the use of biometric technology as a surveillance tool can become a great detriment to society especially since anyone can access this technology.  On the upside, the government uses biometric technology as a protection device against terrorist at the country’s ports of entry.  However as was noted during the lecture, we know the private sector can collect data in the form of capturing one’s fingerprint so long as the public acquiesces to finger scans.  What can this mean for those who are able to implement the use of these private treasure troves?  Will technologies such as these effect future generations in adverse ways?  Should we assume such data collections will always be used to aid the human condition and not harm it?  As the public becomes better informed, will concerns around privacy once again explode onto the national scene? Shouldn’t they?

One thought on “Race, Surveillance and Technology

  1. Evonne Zitouni

    I was also very moved by Ms. Browne’s lecture on race, surveillance, and technology. The lecture turned up the alarm that has been ringing for many of us for quite some time. With technology developing at such a rapid, overwhelming rate, privacy rights of the general public are increasingly exploited and abused. This subtle, but certain abuse of privacy is among the most urgent issues we must address if we hope to preserve our civil liberties in the US. The reality is that surveillance technologies are becoming more powerful, invasive, and commonplace every day. Perhaps even more unnerving is that while these technologies can ideally be used for positive purposes, they are just as readily available for abusive, destructive, and deadly use. I feel that assuming these technologies will only be used for the good is a dangerous, naive, and even deadly assumption. I agree with you that the public should and will make noise once they are better informed of the dangers of modern surveillance, however I do fear by then it may be too late. I worry that the majority of Americans wont speak up until the abuse of privacy rights cause irreversible damage. There is hope, however, as long as the scholarly community takes initiative and invents engaging ways to educate the public about privacy concerns.

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