September 8, 2023 | OPINION | By AJ Fabbri
For everyone except the Colorado College community, which does not get time off for Labor Day, this past holiday weekend was an occasion to celebrate the hard work of the American labor force with relaxation, family gatherings, and barbecues. But this year, New Yorkers had uninvited guests hovering around their festivities: surveillance drones.
Here I am, writing yet another article about those buzzy little gadgets also known as “Obama’s favorite weapons of war.” This time, instead of the United States blowing up “terrorist” children or Ukraine blowing up its Russian invaders, New York City police are using drones to figuratively blow-up parties.
Look, given my Downtown Boston origins, I understand the conflict of interest with me bashing New York City. But in all fairness, this issue is emblematic of a much larger trend – a fate that I hope my beloved (and far superior) Boston can avoid.
The New York City Police Department’s decision to deploy drones to monitor large gatherings and noise complaints over the Labor Day weekend is not only a gross invasion of privacy but also serves as a stark reminder of the increasing surveillance state we find ourselves in. Despite the New York Police Department’s claims of promoting “safety,” the underlying message is clear: Big Brother is watching, and he’s got a bird’s eye view.
Now, I’m no stranger to technological advancements. From innocent cat videos to social media controlling the outcomes of elections, technology has woven itself into the fabric of our daily lives. But when it comes to surveillance, especially in a city as… um… lovely… as N.Y.C., we must tread carefully.
The very essence of these drones, hovering silently above, capturing every move, every interaction, is eerily reminiscent of dystopian novels (such as George Orwell’s “1984”) in which the authorities constantly monitor, control, and harass citizens.
Let’s take a second to look at the bigger picture. The NYPD’s drone surveillance isn’t just about Labor Day parties, or parties in general. It’s about the erosion of our privacy rights in the name of “safety” and “security.” Albert Fox Cahn, the executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, aptly pointed out the NYPD’s pattern of using technology as a public relations stunt, even if it means breaking the law.
And it’s not just the NYPD. Around the world, governments and corporations are using technology as a means of social control. From China’s social credit system to the National Security Agency’s mass data collection, the age of surveillance is upon us. And while some may argue “If someone has nothing to hide, they have nothing to fear,” I counter with, “If they have nothing to hide, why are you watching?”
Surveillance technologies may offer some security benefits, but as solutions for societal ills, they are questionable at best. Sure, people may feel subjectively safer, but at what cost? Is the illusion of safety worth sacrificing our privacy and freedom?
As we head into the future, I leave you with the words of Benjamin Franklin: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”