Watching the watchers

Mike Elgan has an opinion piece in ComputerWorld about the “endemic surveillance” that now permeates society in the US and the UK.  Elgan takes a position that seems to be growing in popularity: forget privacy as we knew it in the 20th century – it is dead, cold and buried in the ground.  Instead, “privacy” advocates should take up a new fight – a fight for our right to watch the watchers:

Surveillance technology is on the rise. Powerful organizations — law enforcement, corporations, governments and others — have demanded and won their right to videotape the public, often secretly. They do this in order to hold individuals accountable for their actions.

Yet the rights of individuals to use similar technology to do the same are often restricted. Why should shoppers, pedestrians, bank customers and citizens be held accountable, but politicians, police, judges and others are not? What kind of democracy is that?

Shouldn’t recording your own police interrogation be a constitutionally protected right, like the right to an attorney? If not, why not?

Glenn Reynolds,of Instapundit fame has also recently written about this concept in Popular Mechanics and on his blog.  And of course, anyone interested in the topic should read David Brin’s masterful treatise, The Transparent Society (Brin also wrote a fantastic novel titled Kiln People based on many of the concepts presented in The Transparent Society).