Observing bodies. Camera surveillance and the significance of the body

Ethics and Information Technology 5 (3):151-162 (2003)
At the most mundane level, CCTV observes bodies, and as such attaches great importance to the specific features of the human body. At the same time, however, bodies tend to disappear, as they are represented electronically by the camera monitors and, in the case of image recording, by the computer systems processing data. The roles of bodies(either as targets of surveillance or as translations into flows of disembodied information), however, are not unimportant or inconsequential, but may in fact give rise to a number of tangible ethical dilemmas. Firstly, the virtual representation of the embodied actor is not a neutral, unproblematic process. Body representation techniques such as CCTV produce constructions of the subject that involve judgmental, discriminatory processes of categorisation and are based on asymmetrical relations between observers and observed. Secondly, the `data doubles' are not inconsequential: the representations of the body produced by CCTV can have palpable consequences for the embodied self and its life chances. The widespread use of CCTV could therefore give rise to individual as well as social issues, and possibly in a different manner than previous surveillance technologies. This fact signals the need for(re-)conceptualisations of moral values (such as privacy) applicable to the case of CCTV which take into account the importance of bodily protections.
Keywords Closed-Circuit TeleVision   Information and Communication Technologies   bodily integrity   ethics   privacy   surveillance
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