Surveillance Equilibrium

What is to be the equilibrium of our surveillance?

States generally want to See as much as possible. As a proud taxpayer, I’m mostly happy that the State monitors my location and income and takes appropriate taxes from me. The State fails to monitor its more powerful individuals, though, and they are notoriously both corrupt and enabling of greater corruption by non-human actors, like large Companies.

I generally believe in, and espouse, a notion of inverse privacy rights as one moves up a hierarchy. Presently, a disproportionate amount of time and effort is spent investigating, auditing, and censuring the poor, which is stupid and cost inefficient. Choosing not to punish a minor miscreance is well within the range of even the lowest-level administrator. Choosing not to investigate, record or punish a major malfeasance is generally the remit of a senior administrator – exactly the type to have relational pressure applied to them by a similarly highly statused criminal.

In the same vein, I think-but-do-not-know that crimes committed by the lowest-status members of society tend to be at a personal and personal-property level. Crimes that impact large bodies of people tend to be committed by powerful persons, or, again, those most psychopathic of immortals, Companies.

Security through observation, when carried out entirely by humans, is riven with paradoxes and is notoriously inefficient. Even relying on networks of human spies suffers from diminishing returns, and the longer a regime like that exists, the longer the perverse and petty incentives on the individual members is in play to corrupt and redirect the enterprises’ intents.

The addition of non-human spies to the mix is what allows present surveillance networks to play their trade with anything approaching success.

Where shall the equilibria settle?

Let’s assume that 75% of countries saw a massive expansion of their capacity to hoover up data about their citizens from 1990 and 2010. Aside from the Americans vast suctioning of the movements of digital citizens, we know that the Chinese and Russian governments were doing the same things, perhaps even more indiscriminately.

Privatised surveillance – by Facebook, Google, Apple and so on, right down to seemingly nebulous details – also increased. Working hand in hand with the States, who have so far spent their time appeasing and cooperating with the newly emergent technical behemoths onto the international stage, it’s reasonable to assume that any of the technical giants you voluntarily engage with know more about you than your spouse or any of your friends. Any you don’t engage with know more about you than your work colleagues, and if you spend your time Trying To Avoid Them, they might only know as much about you as someone who catches the same bus as you.

Observation flows upwards over time

Presently, we monitor peasants. But some of the peasant-monitors need watching too…