A panopticon is a space where you can be watched at any time without knowing when and by whom. This has a strong disciplinary character and since the late eighteenth century this principle is successfully applied in prisons. With the use of modern technology, our society as a whole increasingly resembles a panopticon. This particularly disturbing fact, however, is unknown to most of us.
Thursday night October 25th, the online documentary Panopticon premiered in the Waag building. In 60 minutes, director Peter Vlemmix shows his research on the state of privacy in the Netherlands. It appears our government and several businesses collect a wealth of data that are stored and combined. Wherever you are, with whom you are calling, texting or e-mailing, what diseases you have, what you buy, what books you read - it keeps on getting more.
Panopticon convincingly highlights our lack of privacy. It amazes me that Dutch seem largely unaware of all this. Although I already knew most of the examples, the documentary created a feeling of helplessness. Fortunately, there are some good initiatives: the work of investigative journalist Brenno de Winter, Bits of Freedom, the Internet Society en privacy-conscious search engines.