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  Field Notes From
Watching You

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Watching You On AssignmentArrows

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From Author

David Shenk

Watching You On Assignment

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From Photographer

George Steinmetz

In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photographs by Bob Sacha


Watching You

Field Notes From Author
David Shenk

Creepy Creepier Creepiest
    I checked out the security systems at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah, and the operation was intense. Since the event happened not long after 9/11, emotions were still raw. Everyone thought we were on the verge of another attack. That made getting into any event feel like going through security on Air Force One. Sometimes I would get checked up to four times. 
    But while these security efforts made me feel safe, they also made my skin crawl when I thought about all the video cameras that were capturing my every movement. It's amazing how little public debate emerges about the invasiveness of surveillance technology when it's done in the name of security and terrorism.
    In Great Britain closed-circuit television cameras have proliferated to about four million nationwide. They were installed in the 1970s and '80s to cut down on crime and now are all over the streets, parks, shopping centers, stadiums, and any other public place you can think of.

    Lynn Addison, my text editor, told me about her teenage daughter who has an ID card that she swipes to get into school every day. The scanner records when she's tardy or absent and even plays a song for her birthday.  
    While ID cards in the workplace have started to phase out time cards, using the same type of method for school seems pretty heavy handed. I'm sure it's part of an effort to save time and cost while also providing better security. But what these ID cards are also doing is taking the next generation of citizens and getting them very used to surveillance. After a week of swiping I'm sure these kids don't even think about it, and I'm not sure that's a good thing. 

    While researching this story, I read an article about a pool in France where a teenager blacked out in the deep end. Luckily, the pool was equipped with a sophisticated surveillance system that could detect distressed body movements, and it alerted lifeguards. They ended up rescuing him in time.
    This piqued my interested, so I started surfing around on the website for Poseidon, the company that makes the technology, and I found a link to one of its Web pages. I clicked on it and suddenly I was watching a video of the same kid I had just read about. The hair on my neck started to stand straight up as I watched his body twitch and sink to the bottom. Even though I knew that he was rescued, the video was gruesome and eerie.

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