Big Brother is watching you

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Big Brother is watching you

I was sorting the recycling one day when I brought the recycling bin down to the sorting area, only to find the bin was nowhere to be found once I had finished my job. Someone must have thought that the bin was thrown out and decided to take it. I was so sure my wife would nag about my clumsiness. It occurred to me that the surveillance cameras in the apartment complex may have recorded the situation. Sure enough, I asked the security guard and it didn’t take him more than a few minutes to figure out what happened. The recycling bin was left alone, and one of the residents driving by thought it was waste and took it. The surveillance camera captured the license plate number, so the owner of the car was identified easily. I apologized for my carelessness, asked to have the recycling bin back, and the case was closed.

Then I suddenly felt a bit scared. Dozens of surveillance cameras are installed all over my apartment complex, and residents’ every move is recorded. While the residents have agreed to the cameras for security reasons, it is not so pleasant to be under surveillance all the time. The positive aspect of crime prevention overrides the negative one of compromised privacy, and yet a bitter feeling remains. The surveillance system was an economical way to cut down on staff, but I was concerned for the people who were laid off as their jobs were replaced.

According to the National Human Rights Commission, residents in Seoul and the capital region are caught on surveillance an average of 83 times a day and on bigger streets, every nine seconds on average. Privately managed cameras included, there are 350,000 surveillance cameras working across the country. At the integrated CCTV control center under the Ministry of Public Administration and Security, about 9,200 security professionals are monitoring over 100,000 surveillance cameras installed around the country 24 hours a day. We are living in George Orwell’s “1984.”

CCTV is not the only system watching us. Bank accounts and phone records can be tracked down, credit cards may be checked and emails and SNS postings can be monitored to figure out what you did when, where and with whom. If Big Brother wants to expose a person, it is so easy to reveal everything about his privacy. The protection of personal privacy and the right to pursue happiness are increasingly overlooked. Even the most honest person can be insecure and nervous when he is watched constantly.

The author is an editorial writer at the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Bae Myung-bok

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