Tech Study Finds That Computerized Surveillance Has Negative Effects On Us

Published on October 4th, 2012 | by Steven Hodson


Study Finds That Computerized Surveillance Has Negative Effects On Us

Study Finds That Computerized Surveillance Has Negative Effects On Us

We hear a lot about how much we are being watched, whether it be thanks to things like video camera everywhere or our actions online being followed and logged, but we haven’t had any real hard evidence that this type of computerized surveillance has any real negative effect on us.

That is until some researchers at the Helsinki Institute for Information Technology (HIIT) loaded up ten Finnish households with video camera, microphones, and logging software for all their computers and other devices. Then every month the twelve people from those homes filled out questionnaires to report on any stress levels being experienced, then every six and twelve months they had a personal interviews.

It turns out that, all except for one participant, they experienced a range of of negative feelings and behavior as the surveillance caused annoyance,concern, anxiety, and even anger. It got to the point that one of the households dropped out of the study at the six month mark due to feeling that the breach of privacy and anonymity had become to unbearable.

One of the things that the researchers found surprising was that the computer logging was as disturbing as the camera based surveillance:

“The importance of anonymity in computer use is symptomatic of the fact that a large proportion of our social activities today are mediated by computers.”

On the other hand, the ever-observing “eye”, the video camera, deprived the participants of the solitude and isolation they expect at home. The surveillees felt particularly strong the violation of reserve and intimacy by the capture of nudity, physical appearance, and sex. Oulasvirta concludes:

“Psychological theories of privacy have postulated six privacy functions of the home, and we find that computerized surveillance can disturb all of them.”




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About the Author

Steven has been around the tech world long enough to see most of the stuff we think of cool happen before which leads to a certain bit of cynicism that has contributed to him being known as the cranky old fart of the Internet. Besides sharing some of the goodness that he finds with you here at 42x you can also find him curating some digital goodness at Winextra (tech type stuff) and Rotten Gumdrops (for your daily dose of WTF).

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