IPA Public Safety conference on the Surveillance Society held by Javier Gamero Kinosita from IPA Peru

14 Aug 2020

Security expert Javier Gamero Kinosita, a member of IPA Peru, held an IPA conference entitled ‘Policies and strategies for citizen security in the 21st century’ in the Council Chamber of the Municipal Palace in Miraflores in February 2020. The event was presided over by the mayor of the city, Luis Molina Arles and the General Manager of Citizen Security of the district municipality, Abduhl Miranda Míflin.

The speaker remarked that in the current post-modern discourse of international criminal policy, the surveillance society was a major concept in the development of strategies for the prevention and control of crime. In the political, academic and media spheres, the subject of this society, increasingly marked by telephone interceptions, pin numbers, interception of emails via the Internet, biometric identity documents, video cameras and closed-circuit television systems, is regularly addressed as a critical point in government policy, since it implies the general submission of the population to permanent control by the authorities.

The surveillance consensus and its social cost

Gamero Kinosita said that the surveillance society is emerging with the approval of citizens within a framework of neo-liberalisation of urban policies and effective semi-privatisation of urban spaces, which is reinforced by the fear of terrorism and the population's obsession with reducing risks and increasing security. This is referred to as the surveillance consensus. Kinosita mentioned the social scientist Ulrich Beck who called the society of the 21st century the risk society. However, the suggestion of this surveillance society implies high costs, such as a loss of privacy and the erosion of individual autonomy. Since 11 September 2001, new surveillance technologies have spread rapidly and are increasingly sophisticated and intrusive, leading to a suppression of freedom of expression in privacy, according to the speaker.

The surveillance society as a paradigm shift

Gamero Kinosita argued that the surveillance society has become more pronounced in criminal policy as a result of crime and terrorism, constituting a preventive turn in security policies, shifting from the logic of reactive repression to a logic of proactive prevention. 

The surveillance society at different latitudes

The speaker stated that the surveillance society had its first foundations in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s, generated by fears of threats from communism during the Cold War, the demand for civil rights by radical black activism, anti-Vietnam protests, as well as perceived threats to the moral order such as the sexual revolution and feminism, and that it was therefore necessary at that time to have a new defensive architecture and urban design.

In Great Britain, according to Kinosita, the massive installation of a closed-circuit television system from 1990 onwards was justified to combat hooliganism in football and the high rates of crimes against children.

Kinosita explained that in Germany, the concept of ownership is related to the private home and business, and private information is based on the notion of ownership in oneself, which is conceived as a precondition of freedom and recognition as a legal person and therefore remains intangible wherever the person is. In the United Kingdom when one leaves the private sphere and enters the public sphere, one is subject to public law, whereas in Germany this distinction between the public and the private is not so clearly and strictly demarcated, which limits surveillance.

In France, added the speaker, CCTV surveillance was in permanent conflict with the right to privacy under the Data Protection Act of 1978. It took 5 years to create a legal framework to end this situation, and at a later stage the police were empowered to install CCTV cameras in both public and private areas in sensitive neighbourhoods in large urban centres such as Paris, Lyon, Nice, amongst others. The 2006 Anti-Terrorism Law extended the legal framework for the development of the installation of surveillance cameras. The Minister of the Interior, Nicolas Sarkozy, empowered the police to install cameras for a period of 4 months without the need of a judicial order in 2007; 2 months after he was elected president, he expanded the infrastructure by tripling the number of surveillance cameras with the criterion of covering as much territory as possible.

In Japan, the government also proceeded to experiment with the installation of CCTV cameras due to a fear of increasing crime and the threat of terrorism, especially after the lethal gas attack of Aun Shinrikyo, head of a religious sect, in the Tokyo subway in 1995, however its expansion has not reached the dimensions reached by the United Kingdom or the United States. Kinosita stated that for the Japanese society, the installation of CCTV cameras has been conceived as a symptom or cause of loss of social security, confidence, sensitivity, or security. The Japanese population perceives the massive installation of cameras as an alteration of the natural moral order, preferring milder forms of control. Japanese Human Rights activists, jurists and academics have founded a group called Kanshi Shakai that opposes the expansion of this surveillance society by wielding a new public discourse of the anti-surveillance society.

Final Reflection

To conclude, IPA Peru member Gamero Kinosita affirmed that the development of surveillance societies is undoubtedly related to the capitalist restructuring scheme and the advances made in the post-industrial era of globalisation. They have been consolidated in the United States and Europe, mainly in the United Kingdom, with marked trends of expansion in non-English-speaking and non-Western societies. The question that arises in international criminal policy today is whether we are moving towards a global surveillance society. Kinosita remarked that while it was true that surveillance is a valuable instrument in the prevention and control of crime, it was necessary to create a clearer and more restrictive regulatory framework for its application, in order to safeguard people's rights to privacy and thus keep the fundamental right to personal freedom, the cornerstone of democracy and the modern rule of law, intangible.

Javier Gamero Kinosita, member IPA Peru