Anna Osborne investigates the increasingly important issue of surveillance.


Each time you upload a photo, write a status or tweet onto a social networking site you are consciously selecting information that the world has access to. However, arguably this is not the same for more private usage on the internet such as email and private message. One of the liveliest debates that has taken place since the internet was created is surveillance. A popular question surrounding this debate is ‘is depriving someone of their right to privacy a necessary means to an end to protect the public and security of the country?’

Evan Davis, newsnight presenter recently commented about the possible upside to the problem. ‘We should be open minded enough to think our society may benefit from much more free use of data’.

Two of the key factors in this topic are privacy and safety. The state is increasingly observing our use of the internet and this has caused major concern among the public. However, some justify this by claiming it helps to prevent crimes such as the purchase of illegal contraband such as weapons and drugs on the internet. The ‘Deep Web’, an area of the internet which has been intentionally hidden, is under increasing investigation from law enforcement agencies.

As we spend an increasing amount of our time online, whether we are taking a break from revision or procrastinating while writing an essay, the government can collect and examine what is going on in our lives. Consequently, they may use this to monitor what we do in the future in the name of crime prevention. Social networking sites could be a strong example of how they do this.
Rachel Logan, Law and Human Rights Adviser at Amnesty International UK, states that we have now found out about the enormous amounts of surveillance here at home in the UK. The government are now using fibre optic cables that can pick up all of your emails and phone calls. Internet surveillance less known by the public.

Robin Jones, UWE student, believes that ‘the state shouldn’t be able to monitor peoples every day actions without a justified reason, however with increasing levels of crime I can see why the government may be keen to keep the levels of surveillance high’.

In contrary, UWE student Steph Bridet, said ‘I appreciate both sides of the argument. Although people may feel it is an invasion of privacy, I believe a lot of people, including me, expect the government to be increasing our safety and perhaps internet surveillance is an efficient way of doing so. The issue with this is misuse of governmental power. I personally would like to research more into the debate to look at the benefits that internet surveillance has given us so far to have a concrete answer’.

Famously,  Banksy became involved with the surveillance debate. In June, Banksy confirmed that the painting of men spying on a phone booth near GCHQ in Cheltenham was his work. This painting has aided the awareness of surveillance.

By Anna Osborne