Nanny State: CCTV: the worst of all possible worlds

25 September 2009

CCTV: the worst of all possible worlds

This surveillance isn't working, so what next? More cameras, watched by us online? Or a mix of publicly controlled methods

by Michael Cross
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 25 August 2009 18.00 BST

Immanuel Kant lived his public life under surveillance. When the Enlightenment's greatest philosopher took his regular afternoon walk, everyone in the city of Königsberg knew his identity and routine Рto the extent, according to legend, of setting their clocks by his time of passing.

Such public scrutiny wasn't particular to philosophers, or to 18th century Prussia. For most of human history, most people lived in settings in which every individual who stepped out automatically revealed to the world their station in life (Shakespeare's audiences knew well what was meant by "the sign of your profession") and probably their identity, too. And who knew that if they behaved inappropriately, they or their families would suffer the consequences.

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