Skip to content
Society, Politics & Law

No privacy, please?

Updated Wednesday 20th July 2011

While the world worries about phone hacking, have we let privacy slide away by accident?

Hacking into a private email account, or listening into phone conversations probably seem pretty dreadful personal intrusions. But every day, we give up information about ourselves, about our buying habits, our personal interests, even our movements.

In the West, and particularly in the UK, we live in a world of constant surveillance. CCTVs track us driving along the road, walking through the shopping centre, visiting the hospital. Loyalty cards tell Tesco and Boots what we tend to buy – and what we might, sometimes, be tempted with.

And while there may be occasional outcries at the extreme end of intrusive actions, for the most part we actively and willingly give up this information about ourselves.

A password on a sticky note stuck to a computer Creative commons image Icon Reidrac under CC-BY-SA under Creative-Commons license Safe and secure? A password on a sticky note

Why?

One reason why we concede to CCTV cameras on every street corner is because they make us feel ‘safe’, suggesting that without their perceptive lenses, we’d be less secure, at greater risk.

As for store cards – well, we accept that our recorded behaviours add to consumer profiling information because we get 1 penny off every thousand, and the odd special bargain in exchange for our 'loyalty'. But we also concede our privacy in other ways.

Mobile phones allow us to be everywhere – and nowhere – at the same time. Children increasingly carry mobile phones, not just because all their friends have them, but because parents use them to keep tabs on their children – they are the long-distance electronic versions of hand-holding.

The following short films explore the importance of security and surveillance in a Leeds shopping mall – and ask the social science question: just what is it about modern life that makes us seek security and just what are we giving up to be 'safe'?

Watch welfare, crime and society

 

For further information, take a look at our frequently asked questions which may give you the support you need.

Have a question?

Other content you may like

Technology and trust Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: BBC article icon

History & The Arts 

Technology and trust

What does the increasing surveillance of our personal movement say about trust in our society?

Article
Who's watching you work? Surveillance in business Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: BBC article icon

Money & Business 

Who's watching you work? Surveillance in business

Businesses are increasingly using surveillance techniques and technologies to keep an eye on customers and employees.

Article

Science, Maths & Technology 

Information security

Information security underpins the commercial viability and profitability of enterprises of all sizes and the effectiveness of public sector organisations. This free course begins by explaining why information security and its management are important for any modern organisation and to every individual. You need to be familiar with an organisation, such as your employer, to study this course.

Free course
10 hrs
Mass surveillance will never be able to stop all known terrorists Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Artwork by Catherine Pain © The Open University article icon

Society, Politics & Law 

Mass surveillance will never be able to stop all known terrorists

Is mass surveilance the answer to stopping all known terrorists?

Article
Mass surveillance will never be able to stop all known terrorists Copyright free image Icon Copyright free: Memorycatcher via Pixabay article icon

Science, Maths & Technology 

Mass surveillance will never be able to stop all known terrorists

The government believes mass surveillance can keep us safe from harm. Ray Corrigan suggests those plans need a closer look.

Article
Embarking on a career in cyber security Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: © Oksipix | Dreamstime.com - Cyber Security Photo article icon

Science, Maths & Technology 

Embarking on a career in cyber security

Are you interested in a career in cyber security? Find out what career paths you can take here.

Article
The four horsemen of the Infocalypse Creative commons image Icon Stéfanlicensed for reuse under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 under Creative-Commons license article icon

Science, Maths & Technology 

The four horsemen of the Infocalypse

Why mass surveillance doesn't work. 

Article
Cybercrime: Mass surveillance Creative commons image Icon The Open University under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0 license video icon

Science, Maths & Technology 

Cybercrime: Mass surveillance

In 2013 Edward Snowden removed and leaked files from the National Security Agency which revealed numerous global surveillance programmes.

Video
Why should we be interested in information security? Creative commons image Icon The Open University under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0 license video icon

Science, Maths & Technology 

Why should we be interested in information security?

Cory Doctorow explains that, as the world is made out of computers, every part of life is at risk if people don't understand the information security dimension.

Video