Big Brother is Watching. And Maybe That's a Good Thing: Race, Technology & The Future of Policing

Presented with The Commons Brooklyn


Sounding the alarm about technology, policing, and privacy has become an almost daily occurrence. We are told that the government’s use of technology as a surveillance tool is an “insidious assault on our freedom.” That it is “nearly impossible to live today without generating thousands of records about what we watch, read, buy and do—and the government has access to them.” The message is clear: Big Brother is watching, and we should be afraid.  

But the police use of technology does not have to be dystopian. In fact, technology can be privacy and citizenship enhancing. To make this point, the first part of this Olio examines several areas of policing where the deployment of new technologies—from the use of simple smartphone applications like FaceTime and Google Hangout to the deployment of high tech surveillance cameras—can enhance the goals of transparency, accuracy, and legitimacy. 

The second part of this Olio makes a complementary argument: If we truly care about making policing egalitarian and fair to everyone, then that may mean embracing more technology and policing, not less. Indeed, harnessing technology, including surveillance technology, can help de-racialize policing. This turn to technology will not be cost-free. Indeed, one cost will be the redistribution of privacy. This cost, especially to those who already enjoy a surfeit of privacy, may seem great. But even greater should be the possibility that technology can move society closer to egalitarian, race-free policing, and to the goal of true equality before the law.   


Recommended reading from Penguin Press:

Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked by Adam Alter

“As if to prove his point, Adam Alter has written a truly addictive book about the rise of addiction. Irresistible is a fascinating and much needed exploration of one of the most troubling phenomena of modern times.” —Malcolm Gladwell




Location: The Commons Brooklyn

388 Atlantic Avenue Between Hoyt and Bond. Brooklyn, NY 11217

Commons Brooklyn believes that by providing space where all views, even those we oppose, can be presented, examined, and perhaps refuted, we are helping to build a more just and free society. The Commons offers affordable office and meeting spaces, as well as an event venue. We can host anything from parties and benefits to forums, performances, films, and workshops. Our café can offer light meals, desserts, fair-trade organic coffees, teas, wine, and beer during any event.


Other upcoming Olios


Aug 25

*Olio House Party* // Art as Activism or Art for Art's Sake?

Taught by Two Olio Professors
7:30 p.m. at Tompkins Ave Apartment

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Aug 26

1950s & Nostalgia: In Search of Greatness in the "Golden Age"

Taught by Lawrence Cappello
7 p.m. at Atlas Studios // Newburgh, NY

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Sep 8

What Exactly is Neo About Neo-Nazism? Violence in Politics

Taught by Ward Regan
7:30 p.m. at Tompkins Ave Apartment

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Sep 10

Meditations: A Wisdom of the Everyday

Taught by Michael Prettyman
4 p.m. at IDIO Gallery

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Sep 15

Urban Inspiration & Suburban Sprawl in the Lyrics of the Talking Heads

Taught by Jessica Rogers
8:15 p.m. at Strand Bookstore

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Sep 17

Sep 29

Ban This Book (If You Can)

Taught by Charles Riley
7 p.m. at Strand Bookstore

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