Control Essay, Research Paper
Closed Circuit TV Promotes Social Inequality and Control
by Aaron R. Hamming
In recent years there has been a growing trend involving the use of closed circuit
television cameras. Many businesses are using these cameras to monitor shoppers large
metropolitan areas have started using these systems to view people in public areas.These
cameras can be extremely small and are often hardly noticeable. But few people it seems
have stopped to consider the possible impacts these cameras have on our lives. And it is
the negative consequences that may very well outweigh any of the potential benefits.
Currently there are no adequate laws regulating the use of such cameras, and it is
unlikely that without public outcry that there will be any instituted. Both the United States
Congress as well as the Supreme Court have been decidedly silent on this issue. Due to
the conservative nature of both of these institutions our personal liberties will most likely
continue to be of secondary importance to social control interests.
The main argument for the use of closed circuit television is, of course, our
protection or safety. The benefit comes by making the consumers feel more secure while
they shop. This in turn allows them to purchase more which directly helps the business.
This may appear to be successful from a business perspective, but it cannot hope to solve
the root issue of our social problems. All it can do is mask the fact that our society has
these such problems. Until the basis of these problems are addressed they cannot be
solved, and they will only continue to get worse. By ignoring these problems we can only
The fourth amendment to the U.S. Constitution is very explicit in guaranteeing our
protection from unreasonable search and seizures, and this is fundamentally what the
rampant use of c.c.t.v is violating. Because there are no laws regulating it?s usage,
innocent people will continue to be scrutinized and evaluated for no substantial reason.
Such monitoring allows the notions of reasonable cause or search warrants to be
The use of these cameras in the private sector allows businesses to try and
determine the motives of the people shopping there. People that do not appear to be good
consumers are identified and may be asked to leave the premises. Or in the case of public
streets, people that look like potential troublemakers can be harassed or detained for no
other reason than their appearance.
The net effect of labeling people as consumers and non-consumers is that it breeds
social inequality. This targeting can be based on nothing more than a person?s appearance.
Certain groups that can be identified only by superficial characteristics, such as the
impoverished, are routinely overtargeted by this system. It serves as a method of purifying
an establishment by eliminating what the store may consider to be undesirable shoppers.
Such an example of profiling and over-policing goes completely against this country?s
notion of equality under the law and is a blatant example of infringement upon our most
basic civil liberties.
Minorities are often targeted based on appearance. In the status quo, it is
permissible to do this even if they have done nothing wrong. Basing judgements on racial
or ethnic differences is inherently racist and sets back equality movements in this country
by promoting segregation.
This systematic exclusion in public places promotes what is known as
hyper-polarization. Attempts to target and eliminate people based on class or racial
differences inevitably leads to alienation of these segments of society. The government?s
decision not to become involved makes it complicit in this means of discrimination,
moving us one step closer towards de-facto discrimination.
Such hyper-polarization could lead to overt class conflict in the form of mass
resistance or rioting. Facing no alternatives can certainly lead to extreme reactions. This
will also serve to justify greater methods of social control. In the face of societal chaos
there would seem to be little alternative but to establish a strict police state.
Another negative consequence of c.c.t.v. is that it allows businesses to monitor it?s
employees. Employers will have the opportunity to prevent employees from doing
anything that does not directly benefit the businesses productivity. Doing so in effect
dehumanizes the employee, reducing them from individuals to mere machines; robots
whose sole function is to turn a profit for the business.
While this may not be a tremendous problem in the U.S. because of our basic labor
laws, it is becoming disastrous in less-developed countries. Do to the trend of
globalization, manufactures are setting up factories in countries where labor laws are
minimal or even non-existent. And with closer surveillance the conditions in these
sweatshops will be allowed to deteriorate dramatically. Employers can watch from
thousands of miles away, knowing when underpaid employees are doing such counter
productive things as eating or taking bathroom breaks.
What is needed to eliminate the threats posed by c.c.t.v. use is a means of making
the system accountable to the public. The surveillers need to be held responsible for what
this information is used for. It is essential that we prevent such a powerful tool of social
control from being used almost exclusively for economic benefit.
Without democratic oversight of surveillance technologies such as c.c.t.v., we
remain at the whims and desires of those operating the systems. It is naive to think that if
we don?t challenge each instance of such social control that the situation will improve.
More likely is that each step we take towards a police state that goes unchallenged will
allow for each subsequent step to take place. And after each step it becomes increasingly
difficult to reverse the trend.
No outside sources used