Since advertising has failed to pay the bills for most websites, surveillance has become the standard business model for the internet. As security expert Bruce Schneier puts it, “We build systems that spy on people in exchange for services. Corporations call it marketing.” While Joe Esposito recently highlighted some of the more benign aspects of living in the Panopticon, I still have my doubts. But no one can say they didn’t see this coming. This 1990 article from the Wall Street Journal warned of potential issues stemming from Lotus selling customer information (on discs, no less).

Even more prescient though, was the great television series The Rockford Files, starring the inimitable James Garner, inspiration for countless attempts at funny answering machine messages and the first place I ever heard of sucker punching someone with a roll of quarters in your fist. Back in 1978, Rockford investigated a sleazy private company building a secret computer facility to spy on people and use their personal data against them. If only we’d listened.

(bonus points for a guest starring appearance by none other than Dr. Johnny Fever, Howard Hesseman)

David Crotty

David Crotty

David Crotty is a Senior Consultant at Clarke & Esposito, a boutique management consulting firm focused on strategic issues related to professional and academic publishing and information services. Previously, David was the Editorial Director, Journals Policy for Oxford University Press. He oversaw journal policy across OUP’s journals program, drove technological innovation, and served as an information officer. David acquired and managed a suite of research society-owned journals with OUP, and before that was the Executive Editor for Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, where he created and edited new science books and journals, along with serving as a journal Editor-in-Chief. He has served on the Board of Directors for the STM Association, the Society for Scholarly Publishing and CHOR, Inc., as well as The AAP-PSP Executive Council. David received his PhD in Genetics from Columbia University and did developmental neuroscience research at Caltech before moving from the bench to publishing.


3 Thoughts on "Our Surveillance Society: If Only We'd Listened to Jim Rockford"

In technologically challenged 1970s Great Britain, Jim Rockford’s answering machine was both impossibly space-age and irresistibly glamorous. I’ve often found myself asking myself the question “What would Jim Rockford do?” A wise and prescient man indeed.

If only we’d listened.
Has been the most appropriate/befitting/timely reminder to this great society of ‘PROGRESSIVE THINKERS’.

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