Practitioners of surveillance are often also subjects of others’ monitoring gaze. This is true of police officers who are watched over not only be their superior officers but by members of the public turning video cameras in their direction whilst enforcing the law in conflict situations. CCTV operators are monitored for data protection compliance by their employers who are, in turn, under the watchful eye of information commissioners.
It is less obvious that those engineering data management systems for consumer surveillance are so routinely surveilled. Nevertheless, those who construct infrastructure, use information-gathering equipment and who analyze data are more than just employees. They are participants in a culture of surveillance of which realizing their part is an important step towards ethical practice. Knowing how one is being shaped not only by the immediate demands of an employer but by the wider social, political and economic context is itself an ethical response to surveillance.
My project is partly one of raising practitioners’ consciousness. I am not such much setting out an ethical framework in terms of what to do or not do – even when doing something might be quite legal. Rather, I am inviting practitioners to examine and to understand where they fit in a wider picture – and, more specifically, who is shaping them, how and for what ends.