THE WORK OF WATCHING ONE ANOTHER –
Lateral Surveillance, Risk and Governance – Mark Andrejevic
“This article focuses on emerging strategies for what might be described as lateral surveillance: not the top-down monitoring of employees by employers, citizens by the state, but rather the peer-to-peer surveillance of spouses, friends, and relatives.”
“Lateral surveillance, or peer-to-peer monitoring, understood as the use of surveillance tools by individuals, rather than by agents of institutions public or private, to keep track of one another, covers (but is not limited to) three main categories: romantic interests, family, and friends or acquaintances. It also comprises several levels of monitoring, ranging from casually Googling a new acquaintance to purchasing keystroke monitoring software, surveillance cameras, or even portable lie detectors. Rather than providing an exhaustive taxonomy of surveillance technologies and practices, this section explores examples of monitoring strategies in an effort to elaborate the logic of peer-to-peer surveillance, one that it is hoped might prove of some use in illuminating a constellation of practices ranging from the use of lie detectors in reality TV formats to the growing market for home surveillance products, and the commonplace practices of peer monitoring via cell phone, IM, or the Internet. While some of the practices described below might seem absurd, such as submitting children to a portable lie detector test, others have become so commonplace that they have passed into unreflective use, such as caller ID, once a technology paid for by those with security concerns, now a service as ubiquitous as cell phones. The following sections explore three inter-related forms of lateral surveillance: the use of the Internet, the development of do-it-yourself information gathering technologies, and that of offline investigative tools. In each case the goal is to use representative examples of the technologies to provide some concrete examples of the argument developed in previous section as well as to illustrate developments in lateral monitoring that don’t receive the kind of attention –academic or otherwise –that more top-down forms of surveillance have generated. Of central interest to this paper is the constellation of monitoring practices that emerge from a consideration of the available technologies and techniques. They are, I would argue, worthy of consideration in their own right not as a unique phenomenon but as part of the monitoring assemblage associated with the deployment of new information and communication technologies.”
This article explores a range of technologies for ‘lateral surveillance’or peer monitoring arguing that in a climate of perceived risk and savvy skepticism individuals are increasingly adopting practices associated with marketing and law enforcement to gain information about friends, family members, and prospective love interests. The article argues that the adoption of such technologies corresponds with an ideology of ‘responsibilization’associated with the risk society: that consumers need training in the consumption of services and the development of expertise to monitor one another. Rather than displacing ‘top-down’ forms of monitoring, such practices emulate and amplify them, fostering the internalization of government strategies and their deployment in the private sphere. In an age in which everyone is to be considered potentially suspect, all are simultaneously urged to become spies.