What Don’t You Get?

A little more than twenty years ago, David Brin wrote a book entitled The Transparent Society, which, interestingly enough, suggested that the best way to fight the misuse of information technology was not to restrict information but to make it more widely available.

Since the book was published, between the growth of surveillance systems, the near-ubiquity of camera cell phones, and the spread of social media and the internet, it’s getting more and more difficult for most of us to hide anything [except financial shenanigans governed by algorithms, but that’s another story].

One of the reasons the Black Lives Matter movement has gained support is that people with cell phones and non-police surveillance systems have documented too many police abuses of power and spread them across the internet. Although those in the minority communities have known and complained about such behavior for decades, if not centuries, now that such events have been captured in living [and often dying] color, it becomes harder and harder for the law enforcement community to ignore or brush off those complaints about brutality and excessive force.

On a related front, while the Me Too movement was actually founded in 2006 as an effort to combat sexual harassment and abuse of women, it took off virally in social media after the exposure of the widespread sexual-abuse allegations against Harvey Weinstein in early October 2017. Here, too, the use of the internet has uncovered more than a few cases of gender harassment and sexual abuse, mainly of women, but also of men, and those of other sexual/gender orientations.

With the continuing expansion and accessibility of personal communications, this trend of what could be called “guerilla openness” is not only going to continue, but will likely expand, although more restrictive regimes, such as China, will definitely try to repress it.

Here in the United States, however, socially enforced openness is here to stay, and like most technological tools, it has its upsides and downsides. The downside is that false news, incorrect or inaccurate information can easily be spread and can destroy the reputation and sometimes the lives of innocents. The upside is that institutional and personal abuse and wrong-doing are harder and harder to conceal.

All of which brings up questions. What don’t corrupt cops get? With cell phone cameras possibly everywhere, and the increasing requirements for bodycams, just how long do they think they can continue to get away with brutality and abuse? The same questions apply to sexual harassers and abusers, particularly those in high places.

Because in a world where information – accurate and inaccurate – flows everywhere, before long there may not be that many places to hide… for better and worse.

2 thoughts on “What Don’t You Get?”

  1. Michael Creek says:

    I just did a search on number of police officers in USA. The search returned 800,000 Law Enforcement Officers. If only a small proportion of these are ‘racially biased’ and prone to these barbarous acts , then in total you are going to get lots of cases. I also searched for police deaths. I found out that , in recent years, the highest or second highest cause of death for police in all USA was cancer, purely in New York and due to 9/11. These brave men and women rushed towards the twin towers, and paid a high price for their devotion to duty.

  2. Chris says:

    This article (https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2020/7/7/21293259/police-racism-violence-ideology-george-floyd) isn’t really about the surveillance mentioned, but it does cover the topics of racism and brutality a bit. It was a pretty good read. It was especially interesting that police officers have a lower death rate than farmers, truck drivers, and trash collectors. But everyone focused on the specific instance of an officer getting killed on a traffic stop so they act more aggressive than they should.

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