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The Surveillance: Explaining Opposing Positions


The issues of governmental surveillance are not the burning issues of everyday life. Moreover, most people do not even think that there is a possibility that the State can observe their personal lives. However, when the movie “Enemy of the State” appeared on the screens, these issues became quite actual and broadly discussed. Surely, people do not wish someone (especially the government) to observe their lives; however, some clearly realize it may be useful for the sake of their own safety. Anyway, surveillance is not disproved by federal agencies, however, the means and the tools of surveillance are not and will not be discovered by them.

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Some surveillance tools are intended to restrict the freedoms of the citizens, and this often happens without any awareness of the citizens, while the others do not have such an intention. It is necessary to emphasize that not all surveillance means are acceptable, however, we need to understand the essence of these mechanisms in order to realize what should be expected.

Arguments for Surveillance

The movie clearly shows that the government has an opportunity to follow any citizen by means of bugs, satellite surveillance and controlling the credit cards of everyone. Some of these points may seem unreal and close to science fiction, however the possibility of surveillance is real. Arguing for the surveillance, people often provide the arguments, which are closely linked with State security and safety issues. The fact is that such a perfect surveillance system gives an opportunity to monitor all the movements of some suspected personalities. The fact is that these personalities are not random, and they are often suspected in the violation of State security and the safety of the citizens, consequently, this surveillance is the only way to avoid terrorist attacks, massive murders at schools, unlawful financial operations etc.

It is necessary to emphasize that all unlawful actions should be avoided and prevented, but not investigated, as prevention is the best way of struggle. The other arguments are not so powerful, as they presuppose the necessity of surveillance because of the increased population and increased number of gamblers, who lost their fear, and feel themselves free and unpunished.

Surveillance is an effective tool for crime deterrent. The presence of video cameras, and the notion that surveillance is possible can help to prevent crime, as criminals do not want to be chased and captured. Individuals are more afraid of cameras, thus, the number of unorganized crimes may be seriously decreased. Surveillance offers great help for investigation. The data and images obtained from surveillance systems may be used as evidence while proving or disproving the guilt.

It is also argued that many surveillance practices have good or at least neutral intentions. These intentions generally include: desires for safety, welfare, health, efficiency, speed and coordination.

Arguments against Surveillance

People who stand against surveillance often support their point of view by the issues of violation of private life. Originally, they consider that only those people stand for the surveillance, who is engaged in it, and have never been surveyed. These arguments also involve video monitoring in public places. It is argued that it is the direct invasion in privacy, however, most even do not notice the cameras, consequently, it is even more violent invasion, as people even do not suspect they are observed. Another argument is the potential misuse of the surveillance data. The attained data (images, numbers, contacts) should never be published, however, sometimes they are, even without the direct necessity (the direct necessity is the help in investigation). People are simply tired of being observed anywhere and anytime: in public places, at work, on the roads etc. so they just wish to live their private life at home, and be sure that their phone talks, internet chatting and other parts of very private life will not be surveyed.

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These practices help to create the world and the atmosphere of mistrust. People do not feel they are trusted and they start searching for trust, and fell into depression and despair in the case of failure. It fosters suspicion and the fragile relations among people ruin finally.


In spite of the fact that these arguments (both for and against) may explain a lot, the discussions on these issues are rarely published in the mass media, and the participators of the discussions have only banal confirmations of their righteousness, as the federal services will never discover the real situation, as they need to do their job and guarantee safety to citizens. The only thing they will not disprove is the fact of surveillance itself, though, the means and the tools of such surveillance will be known only from books and movies about spies, consequently, this issue will not trespass the frames of discussions, which are often unsubstantial, and do not have any evidence to confirm the key points.


Lyon, David, ed. Surveillance as Social Sorting: Privacy, Risk, and Digital Discrimination. New York: Routledge, 2002.

Mcgrath, John E. Loving Big Brother: Performance, Privacy, and Surveillance Space. New York: Routledge, 2004.

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