We See It All: Liberty and Justice in the Age of Perpetual Surveillance by Jon Fasman - review by David Anderson

David Anderson

Watching the Watchers

We See It All: Liberty and Justice in the Age of Perpetual Surveillance


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Steve Wright picked up five young women from the red-light district of Ipswich over a six-week period at the end of 2006 before suffocating them and dumping their bodies in local streams and woodland. Camera footage available to the police recorded a car registered to Wright in the red-light district on the nights the women disappeared and on roads leading to the disposal sites. His arrest came as a profound relief: I lived at the time, with my terrified wife and daughters, just a few hundred yards from the scene of his abductions.

The use of images captured in public places by devices in plain sight (CCTV and numberplate-recognition cameras, police bodycams, drones) is the principal theme of this book. The fruits of such overt surveillance serve not only the investigation of crime but also the administration of justice: in trials involving assaults outside nightclubs or robberies in the street, it is routine for juries to view the available CCTV footage. Furthermore, since expectations of privacy are lower in public places than at home, overt surveillance is rarely seen as a threat to our liberties on the same scale as either covert surveillance by intelligence agencies or ‘surveillance capitalism’ (the monitoring and monetising of our data by Big Tech).

Jon Fasman aims to shock us out of our complacency. Automatic facial recognition (AFR) software allows police to put a name to every participant in a street protest, to track their movements and to store images of them on vast databases that can be efficiently searched using AI-driven analytics. For

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