What does increased surveillance mean to us?

UPDATE (11/14/2015): In light of the recent terror attacks in Paris, this article just feels more relevant for me to write right now. My thoughts are with all those affected. Stay strong.

Cameras are ubiquitous now, and gone is the assumption that anything we do in public is anything but, well, public. We expect that, if our actions are notable enough, they’ll be tweeted, snapped, instagrammed, blogged, vlogged, and maybe if we have done something particularly shocking and offensive, they’ll make the 24 hour news cycle and we’ll become celebrities for the briefest of moments.

Isn’t this a bit strange? Or is it normal to expect that literally every action we take from outside of the comfort of our homes is potentially a public one?

I’m not sure. What I do know is that it is a reality that we must confront. England now has more CCTVs than anywhere else in the world. The US is not far behind. Nor is China. And while I can’t condone invasions of civil liberties in the name of “security”, I understand why there is a debate about this in the first place. And I refuse to let myself be dis-empowered.

In fact, just as city planners can choose to implement cameras throughout cities, to document the lives of civilians, so to can I empower myself by purchasing a camera of my own.

My weapon of choice…

I have a few different “weapons” in my arsenal to protect against an invasion of my civil liberties. And they are very simple. The first one is encryption. That’s it. While I have nothing to hide, I am a private individual and reserve the right to have private conversations with friends and family while on and off US soil. So I use a version of Marc Cuban’s app Cyberdust for some communications for most communications and can highly recommend it. It’s simple, easy to use, and the content of your messages disappears shortly after you send them.

My other weapon of choice…

Is a GoPro. I’m being filmed. I get it. What happens in public now has the potential, and even the likelihood, to become a permanent part of the public record. With that in mind, I have decided to take matters into my own hands and document things from my perspective while in certain public situations.

Now in case you are wondering, no, I don’t carry a camera around with me at all times. I don’t walk into Sunday Brunch with a camera mounted to my head. I’m paranoid, but I’m not that paranoid :)

However, there are other situations in which I have been very thankful to have a camera on me. The biggest use I have found so far for my Hero4 is as a mounted dashcam. Basically every time I get into the car I set it up as a dashcam, which literally takes 4 second. This serves as an extra layer of protection should I run into any problems while on the streets, and less than a year after adopting this process my GoPro has saved my from at least one costly insurance dispute. What happened is that, while waiting to pull into a parking space, a car backed out directly into me. Rather than quibble over who did what, I simply had to pull out my camera and we could review the footage right then and there.

I’m a big documenter of my life, and arguably an over-sharer on social media. This means that I love carrying my GoPro around with me in my Filson handbag. It’s tiny, so it’s not like it really accounts for any extra baggage. And having it gives me peace of mind, as I know that, if anything were to happen in public that I needed to document, I could pull my cam out then and there.

But a camera isn’t enough

I know that a camera isn’t enough, and I don’t want it to seem as if I’m responded to a government over-reach with a kneejerk purchase of {insert trendy consumer electronic here}. A camera isn’t enough. Encryption isn’t enough. What we need to do every day is remind ourselves that freedom of speech is absolute and so is our right to privacy. One-time education isn’t enough. What we need to combat a growing surveillance state is a growing awareness of our rights as Americans and citizens of the world.

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