‘Who watches our watchmen?’ Journalists informs public of new surveillance practices

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

By Serigne Faye

Kenneth Lipp and Dustin Slaughter, the pair of journalists who founded and together co-edit the Philadelphia based online publication, “The Declaration,” gave a panorama of what they have coined the “surveillance society” in an information session hosted by The Wooden Show Bookstore in Philadelphia March 5.

“Surveillance can be loosely defined as persistent or methodical observation,” Lipp told the audience.

After noticing the increase in the number of cameras on street corners, he took a walk to a nearby store to pick up a money order and took photos of every camera he encountered on his way back.

Lipp came back with over 45 photos in a span of 20 minutes.

“Surveillance isn’t new, but its ubiquity and pervasiveness have increased with the advancement of technology,” Lipp said. “It’s acceptable to various levels in society. There are a lot of people that we know that are okay with an awful lot of surveillance.”

Since whistleblower Edward Snowden leaked confidential documents last summer in protest of NSA surveillance practices, Americans have become more aware of the nature of the surveillance under which they find themselves. The frequency of Google searches of “Snowden” and the “NSA” spiked last summer, coinciding with information about the revelations, according to Google Zeitgeist.

“Most of the time we don’t even notice it,” Lipp said. “If you walk through a train station, just look around you, notice how many cameras [watch] you at once. We have all become very acclimated to how observed we are.”

In 2001, shortly after the World Trade Center attacks, 55 percent of Americans felt that it was necessary to give up civil liberties for the sake of security, as opposed to 35 percent who did not, according to a poll by the Pew Research Center. The follow-up poll in 2011, however, reflects a reversal: 54 percent of Americans polled said that giving up civil liberties was unnecessary and the number of Americans who did fell to 40 percent.

In a survey conducted by Cloud Security Alliance (CSA), 47 percent of people labeled the transparency of the country’s anti-cyberterrorism tactics as “poor” and “have no idea how their information is accessed or how often.”

The repercussions have been global in scale, especially in the worlds of commerce and politics when it was discovered that Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany, could have been targets of NSA wiretapping and government spying.

In another CSA report, 56 percent of non-U.S. residents reported being less likely to use U.S. cloud based providers, while 10 percent cancelled projects slated to include them.

Throughout their presentation, Lipp and Slaughter addressed tough questions concerning life in a surveillance state, including how much surveillance is acceptable; who is conducting the surveillance; what is being surveyed; and how to raise awareness of the balance between privacy and security.

In every attendee’s seat was a “white paper,” an informational document circulated through law enforcement agencies. The paper’s message, superimposed with a Philadelphia Police Department watermark, describes an image found on a Facebook page promoting “The Panic Hour,” an Occupy National Gathering that took place in 2012. The acronym A.C.A.B. (All Cops Are Bastards) appears on the image, inspiring a link between the movement and “neo-nazi” and “white supremacist” groups.

“They draw, at best, spurious connections between dangerous and problematic groups like white supremacists and Neo-Nazis and First Amendment protected activity,” said Slaughter in his presentation. “We all know that [Neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups] have nothing to do with the Occupy National Gathering, but this is what enables them to justify more surveillance.”

The presentation also explored surveillance in social media in an arena where privacy is ambiguous, but its illusion is also palpable.

“The social media technology and surveillance intersection is a new thing and an exploding thing,” Lipp said. “Its impossible to stay ahead of for active participants in technology, so law enforcement is struggling. They are monitoring people on social media now, an area where there is still very little law. They are trying to establish policies to avoid having to have a warrant to access this kind of information.”

Slaughter claims that this is the kind of surveillance that vigilant citizens should be wary of.

“There are cases where people have clearly not consented to surveillance and moves into questionable constitutional waters,” Lipp said.

In an informal poll, The Communitarian asked 25 students and faculty to rank how concerned they are about government surveillance, how their decisions are affected by surveillance and how necessary they consider surveillance measures are in protecting American livelihood.

While over half (52 percent) of the participants said their personal choices about how they communicate were “not very affected” or “not at all affected” by the surveillance, 40 percent of participants polled said that they were concerned or very concerned about it.

“In general, I am against the amount of access to information they have, though I don’t know how much they use it,” said Jeremy Forrester, 20, who is pursuing a degree in business. “I am not as active on social media as other people, so it doesn’t bother me quite as much, but in principle, I am very against it.”

For some, the trade-off between privacy and security is a fair one.

“Security is important,” said Bruce Langlois, a 20-year-old computer science major. “We are living in a world where privacy is disappearing. Without privacy people are rapidly losing the capacity for self-reflection. There are places where you have to take peace over freedom but there should be better protection for citizens.”

One of those participants was 23-year-old Louis Dagusto.

“I don’t care. I know that I am not doing anything wrong” said Dagusto, who is pursuing a degree in computer programming. “If they want to check my emails, look at what I am typing online or what I am talking about on the phone, then go for it.”

But even Dagusto had reservations.

“I do think that we are losing more than we are gaining,” Dagusto said. “We are losing a lot of the freedoms that we are used to. Our way of using the Internet and being anonymous in our comments and our actions on the Internet is being jeopardized.”


Contact Serigne Faye at communitarian@dccc.edu



The Latin Flavor Club



“The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.”

Babe Ruth


The Latin Flavor Club at Delaware County Community College is formed by students of diverse backgrounds who are passionate about Hispanic/Latino cultures and sharing them with their peers. Through sharing traditional foods and dance, as well as a variety of cultural activities, the club aims to raise awareness of this rapidly-growing demographic and its presence in the higher education system. Club members range anywhere from native Spanish-speakers to enthusiasts who simply want to learn more about the different cultures. One of the core components of this group is fundraising, which benefits culturally-relevant causes. Currently, the club donates funds to Puentes de Salud, a non-profit organization that promotes the health and wellness of South Philadelphia’s though high-quality health care and community building. Known throughout the College for its dynamic, all-inclusive events such as outdoor Zumba, and the Fiesta Latina, the Latin Flavor Club offers a fun environment for anyone looking to get involved in the campus life of Delaware County Community College.

Latin Flavor Family

Serigne Faye

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