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Federal Judges in San Francisco Resist Attempts to Surveil Them and Their Co-Workers; Bigbrother's Corporate Cousin: Christian Parenti On the Politics and History of Everyday Surveillance

StoryAugust 09, 2001
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It’s not just union activists and political dissidents who are upset at the proliferation of surveillance in theworkplace. Now a group of judges with the Ninth District Court of Appeals in San Francisco are waging a campaign ofresistance against government attempts to monitor them and their colleagues at work.

The judges say that the government’s use of monitoring software to watch their office computers is a violation oftheir right to privacy. They recently began dismantling the monitoring software in protest of the practice. Thejudges’ protests have forced the government to negotiate and given new meaning to the phrase "Judicial Activism."The Judicial Conference of the U.S., the ultimate governing body of the courts, will meet to resolve the matter earlynext month.

The Federal Judges in San Francisco who are resisting attempts to monitor their computers at work are a publicexample of a widespread phenomenon. The American Management Association estimates that 80% of employers monitor theirworkers. Many corporations say that surveillance and monitoring technology save money and time and are necessary toprevent workers from loafing off on the job.

Civil Liberties advocates tend focus on the threats to privacy posed by such technology.

But others say the new technology of surveillance is more than just a threat to privacy. It’s also a political toolfor, as one critic puts it, "pushing social relations on the job toward a new digital Taylorism, where every motionis watched, studies and controlled by and for the boss." And it’s a tool with a long history.


  • Alex Kazinski, Judge with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals who wrote an 18 page legal brief against theuse of the monitoring software.
  • Christian Parenti, activist and author of ??Lockdown America: Police and Prisons in an Age of Crisis.He is writing a new book on the politics and history of everyday surveillance and published an article in this week’s_Nation_ magazine entitled "Big Brother’s Corporate Cousin."



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