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Season 14 | Episode 7

Watching You, Watching Me

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(Persistent Survelliance Systems)

From awkward moments to practical jokes to serious attempts at battling crime, we ask whether being watched is a good or bad thing.

First, a look at how watching others become one of the most ubiquitous forms of entertainment. Candid Camera is one of the most original – and one of the most mischievous – TV shows of all time.  Admirers hailed its creator Allen Funt as a poet of the everyday.  Critics denounced him as a Peeping Tom. Funt sought to capture people at their most unguarded, their most spontaneous, their most natural.  And he did. But as the show succeeded, it started to change the way we thought not only of reality television, but also of reality itself.  Looking back at the show now, a half century later, it’s hard NOT to see so many of our preoccupations – privacy, propriety, publicity, authenticity – through a funhouse mirror, darkly.

Then, a hard look at the trade-off between privacy and safety. In 2004, when casualties in Iraq were rising due to roadside bombs, Ross McNutt and his team came up with an idea. With a small plane and a 44 mega-pixel camera, they figured out how to watch an entire city all at once, all day long. Whenever a bomb detonated, they could zoom onto that spot and then, because this eye in the sky had been there all along, they could scroll back in time and see - literally see - who planted it. After the war, Ross McNutt retired from the Air Force, and brought this technology back home with him. Manoush Zomorodi and Alex Goldmark from the podcast “Note to Self” give us the lowdown on Ross’s unique brand of persistent surveillance, from Juarez, Mexico to Dayton, Ohio. Then, once we realize what we can do, we wonder whether we should.


Comments [6]

Gregory Ferree from Cologne, NJ

I enjoy this show because the topics and stories trigger more questions! Well done, and thank you. In this case, I would like to know what would happen if the three groups into which the participants divided themselves were separated from each other and the conversation / debate / argument were allowed to continue.

Oct. 23 2017 04:47 PM
Chip from NC

Dan asked "When are they going to place drones in offices of congress and lobbying firms and watch for more white collar crime like chemical dumping?"
The answer is exactly why we do not want such technology implemented: we, the People, cannot trust such a tool in the hands of those in power because we can't be assured that it will be applied equally and fairly. This is not "Person of Interest".

When did "surveillance state" stop being something evil?

Oct. 22 2017 03:25 PM
Dan from Texas

It sounds like you're actually breaking this tech to the public. I had a teacher back in the 90s who said he worked for the military before that, and he said back then they had the ability to read license plates from satellites in orbit. This would cut the massive institutional incarceration problem and make sure police resources are directed at criminals.
When are they going to place drones in offices of congress and lobbying firms and watch for more white collar crime like chemical dumping?

Oct. 22 2017 12:05 AM
Creed from East Coast

I watch a lot of television from outside the US. The very first comment from British police on every crime committed is get the footage/check CCTV- closed circuit television that records everything. Why is this so controversial here when it could be so beneficial???

Oct. 21 2017 08:52 PM
Mike Smo from Wisconsin

Listening to "Watching You Watching Me" was particularly enjoyable for me today. Yesterday, while hunting with a friend in the National Forest in Northern Wisconsin, a trail cam took my picture right after my friend, who had just seen it, stopped and then said, "Smile, you're on ..", I turned around, and click. I had walked right by this camera which was placed on public land and triggered by my movement. (Trail cams are a tool some hunters use to "spy" on game animals.) Yes, I experienced all of the frustrations and emotions described in part one of the show. Nice to have them all enumerated, although in this case, the effects did not last long. Of course, part two of the show went on to describe the almost incalculable consequences of modern technology, a reality we should all be considering.

Oct. 30 2016 09:29 PM
georg tirebiter from california

The main issue with persistent surveillance is the potential for mis-identification. People who assume that "I am doing nothing wrong so I don't have a problem" can easily end up in a Kafka-like nightmare where the State has "irrefutable" evidence of guilt of an innocent citizen. What is the recourse then?

Oct. 30 2016 02:49 PM

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