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(exerpted from http://wearcam.org/sousveillance.htm, with some editing)

Sousveillance (roughly French for undersight) is the opposite of surveillance (roughly French for oversight). But by ``sousveillance'', I'm not suggesting that the cameras be mounted on the floor, looking up, rather than being on the ceiling looking down like they are now. Rather, I am suggesting that the cameras be mounted on people in low places, rather than upon buildings and establishments in high places.

Thus the ``under'' (sight) means from down under in the hierarchy, rather than physically as in ``underneath'' the floor.

Let me begin by giving some trivial but illustrative simple examples of various kinds of sousveillance:

  • a taxicab passenger photographs the driver, or taxicab passengers keep tabs on driver's behaviour;
  • 1800 number "am i driving ok" on a truck so citizens can report the behaviour of the driver to the trucking company;
  • student evaluation of a professor (forms handed out to students by the professor but collected by a class representative and anonymized by the department);
  • citizens keeping a watch on their government and police forces
  • shoppers keeping tabs on shopkeepers (reporting misleading advertising, unsafe fire exits, etc.).
In many ways democracy in general should include some degree of sousveillance.

Certainly the benefits of sousveillance are obvious:

  • good drivers, professors, teachers, government officials, and police welcome sousveillance because it ensures their integrity;
  • bad drivers, professors, teachers, government officials, and police oppose sousveillance;
  • sousveillance is necessary to prevent crime, corruption, terrorims, etc.
  • building sousveillance infrastructure into a government, a police force, military, or the like, will ensure integrity, and ensure that surveillance is balanced;
  • societies with surveillance only (e.g. no sousveillance) are unstable and tend toward totalitarianism (e.g. overthrow of government, or takeover, martial law, etc.);
Indeed, the world sousveillance foundation (http://wearcam.org/wsd.htm) seeks to ensure that there is at least some sousveillance to balance recent increases in surveillance. Sousveillance can be understood by the following simple experiment: Bring additional persons to observe and document your observations as this may help prevent the eruption of violence.

December 24 is World Sousveillance Day.

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