Study Questions

1. Due to limitations of space, this chapter has discussed in detail only a few of the systems and practices that can broadly be defined as “surveillance.” How many other applications of surveillance (in both its guises as coded data collection and visual monitoring) can you identify on your campus or workplace?

2. Gary Marx (1995) demonstrates that surveillance motifs are pervasive in popular culture. They range from themes of erotic fantasy (of secret watching) to political paranoia about the “enemy within.” What are the impacts of the widespread cultural treatment of surveillance as entertainment on the public at large? Do they help to “normalize” surveillance and make it acceptable, or do they increase public fears and anxieties about crime?

3. For all their benign appearance, are sites like Facebook and Twitter simply the most instant and global means of surveillance on the planet? Are they just the most effective way of keeping in touch, or do they legitimize people spying on each other and make the notion of privacy (and indeed friendship) a thing of the past?

4. As of October 2016, the CODIS DNA database stores 2,521,974 arrestee profiles and 738,992 forensic profiles, but there are frequent discussions about whether it should be extended, even to the entire United States population. What are the pros and cons of keeping samples taken from the entire population on a national DNA database? Would such a move reduce discrimination, or might it create “at risk” categories that reinforce racial and ethnic stereotypes (Nelkin & Andrews, 2003)?

5. From your reading of this subject, would you say that on the whole, surveillance systems empower or constrain?