State, Surveillance, and Society Essay Example


The use of big data in surveillance is aimed at encroaching what was originally done privately. Indeed, this is against the background that the Americans have always loved privacy and hence it has become difficult for the surveillance teams to establish the lawbreaking incidents that happen in these zones. On the other hand, the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States’ Constitution kept the government intrusions to people’s private lives at bay. However, the introduction of the internet and mobile gadgets has significantly changed how people perceive this piece of legislation. On websites, people use computers and smartphones to give personal information away. The introduction of big data policing was influenced by the great use of the digital space. All the processes that pertain to data collection and use in these surveillance teams rely on the presence of the internet.  In the digital era, people’s private lives have become public because of the information they provide on online sites. In some cases, companies mine data and start the use of the data for different purposes that help to fulfill their marketing goals. Still, people post their pictures on social sites even when engaged in illegal activities. From such postings, police have used this information to arrest the people engaged in illegal activities. Police have created databases that help to predict where a crime is likely to happen hence aiding in crime prevention.

               I think the transformation into the use of big data policing is based on good intentions and is good for the community. With the widening of the digital space, it is important to find a way to bring sanity and curb crimes that are likely to be influenced by the use of digital media. Currently, I realized sites such as Facebook provide private personal information that can be available to everyone including the police. If people post their pictures while engaged in criminal behavior such as handling illegal firearms and drugs, this will help the police to track them down. The police can even check on the victim’s friends because Facebook makes this data available to the public. From the digital space, technologies are developed to aid I facial recognition of some suspects in crime incidents. At the age of the digital era, private lives have become much public and police are getting advantage of this opportunity to conduct their surveillance. For example, out of the knowledge acquired in this course, I did my own exploration and realized that the Los Angeles Police Department is using outside help, records, and tracks to create a digital database of crimes, that can even predict where the crime is next likely to happen. The database has an algorithm that has an active map to make predictions with high precision.

               There will be a high degree of community policing with the use of digital surveillance given the community will help the police to take all data crimes and feed them into special databases. To me, life will be safer because many people will be deterred from engaging in criminal activities having the awareness that police are monitoring what was originally and constitutionally regarded as people’s private life. The digital sites require people to feed so much personal information and end up making this data much available to the public. As such, this makes it hard to guarantee the privacy of anyone, a factor that has given police an opportunity to explore in their bid to crime prevention endeavors.  For example, I have realized the NYC Police use cameras on the streets and sidewalks to monitor any suspicious activities and respond quickly when a crime happens. In such a case, the goal is to make people’s lives more secure and push people into being law-abiding. In my view, the systems monitoring people from the sidewalks do not infringe anyone’s rights, because the goal is to punish lawlessness. When in public space, no one should have an expectation of any privacy. In Chicago, they use an algorithm that will predict where a crime is likely to happen based on the historical data collected and stored in different databases for analysis. I have learned when a list is made of specific people who are likely to make crimes based on their history is drawn, police visit them and warn they are watching them deter them from engaging in a criminal act.

               On the other hand, the gravest concern of the big data use in surveillance is the assumptions associated with the monitoring systems. Sometimes, people with no criminal record or who are not likely to engage in a criminal act may have their data captured in these databases simply because their friend is a proven criminal or someone close to them was killed. In such a case, the algorithm is wrong.  Then this shows police do not rely on an accurate system even though it has been praised for raising and enhancing the works of the police. Nevertheless, there is an incredibly large percentage of genuine incidents whereby people already on the list are caught doing serious criminal acts and even shot dead. Given the high level of criminal prediction using this data, it is hard to argue in support of privacy infringement because police use data that is available to the public. Now, the major concern emerges when the big data results correspond to those available in racial profiling. In most cases, the crimes happen in areas inhabited by minority populations and this data is likely to correspond. Thus, it is likely to find the big data results having nine in every ten listees from Latino and African-American groups. Then this raises the question of whether big data is another way of racial profiling. Ferguson (2017) is concerned with this issue and explores the issue of using big data to support biased systems, and also looks at the constitutionality of big data use. What happens if a police officer brought Facebook and Google personal data to a person. In such a case, Ferguson (2017) thinks if data is available in such media spaces and government uses it for investigation, this move is justified. In his view, a warrant is unnecessary when the government uses data available to the public. Thus, this raises my belief as a criminologist that data available in digital spaces can be useful in helping enhance the safety of the people.

               All in all, data available in public spaces cannot be considered private and police are at liberty to use the information for the sake of the general masses. Data available on Facebook and Google among other digital spaces can be used by the police without requiring a warrant because the data is already within the public domain. As a criminologist, undergoing this course and reading such materials enhances my confidence in the use of big data available in public. I will not need to seek permission to access and use this data to help avert criminal activities. I can now explore spaces where criminal information is likely to be shared and start the process of tracking the suspects to help improve the safety of the masses.


Ferguson, A. (2017). The Rise of Big Data Policing: Surveillance, Race, and The Future of Law Enforcement. New York University Press. Pages 7-61.


This essay is written by the student of the University of Central Florida