Abstract - The Information Society 10(2)

Surveillance and capture: Two models of privacy

Philip E Agre

Two models of privacy issues are contrasted: the surveillance model and the capture model. The surveillance model uses visual metaphors (such as Big Brother is watching) and derives from historical experiences of secret police surveillance. The lesser known capture model employs linguistic metaphors and has its roots in the practices of applied computing through which human activities are systematically reorganized to allow computers to track them in real time. The surveillance model emphasizes nondisruptive, surreptitious data collection, while the capture model describes the readily apparent instrumentation that entails the reorganization of existing activities. The surveillance model is concerned to mark off a private region by means of territorial metaphors of invasion. The capture model portrays captured activities as being constructed in real time from a set of institutionally standardized parts specified by the captured ontology.

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