David Dunn-Rankin

Many years ago, my wife had a customer in Singapore who was visiting us here in the States. Over dinner, I asked him about all the rules Singapore had at that time: potential death penalty for drug dealers, randomized drug tests to any individual without a warrant, chewing gum (illegal), pornography (illegal), criticizing the government (illegal) and walking naked in your house (illegal).

The list of rules in Singapore was quite extensive and well beyond just the few I’ve listed. Most Americans would find the Singapore limitations on civil liberties stifling.

I asked, “Isn’t Singapore a little like living in a prison with so many rules constricting your freedom?” 

He replied, “Do you lock your front door at night?”

I said I did. He said he didn’t need to.

“If your children are gone and you don’t know where they are, do you worry?” he asked.

I said of course I did. He said he didn’t need to.

“Who then, is living in some kind of prison?” he asked.

Roll forward to 2021 and another Asian country, China, not only has its own set of draconian rules, but has created a national surveillance and facial recognition system to track each Chinese individual when they are out in public. Not only do the Chinese have credit scores, but they have a social score based on an individual’s personal behavior.

As an individual crosses the street, a digital billboard could flash their picture with their social score and say, “Didn’t pay their rent.”

Is what is going on in China a form of prison, or does the average Chinese person actually feel safer with the strict rules of personal behavior and the high level of surveillance?

Perhaps you think the heavy hand of government of Singapore and China could never come to America. Americans wouldn’t stand for it. Our freedom and liberty are too important to be sacrificed in the name of safety.

Are you sure?

Many of us are familiar with Ring, which has put a video camera at the front door. When someone rings the doorbell, Ring alerts you on your cellphone so you can see who it is, and talk with them. There is some correlation between the higher number of Ring doorbells and lower crime in neighborhoods. Criminals do like to check to see if anyone is home before they break in.

Ring also has a feature, if you opt-in, for you to tap on the “Notify Neighbors” button and share your recordings with neighbors. So, if you were broken into and have the video, your neighbors can see videos of this suspect and be on the lookout. That’s the equivalent of an ever present, ever alert, digital block safety captain.

FlockSafety is another company gathering digital records of our activities. They install cameras in your yard that record cars and license plates going up and down your road. If there is a break-in, they can look at cars and see which cars do not belong to your neighbors and have police follow up. Where there is a higher number of FlockSafety cameras, there is generally lower crime.

Are we gradually heading towards a surveillance state similar to China that’s driven by private enterprise? Is this good? What laws do we need?

Share your thoughts: David@D-R.Media.

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