Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon is a hypothetical prison based on two concepts: the idea that the officers can spy on the inmates without the inmates knowing they’re being spied on, and the premise that the inmates can’t communicate with each other due to the separation of their cells. The comparison between current government surveillance and the Panopticon, however, is not an accurate metaphor.

In the Panopticon, the prisoners know they’re in prison. There are physical cells keeping the inmates from talking to each other, reminding them of their imprisonment. However, in reality, the “prisoners” of the government often don’t even know they’re in prison. Many citizens are unaware of the government’s ability to see into their lives through the Internet. They live in ignorant bliss, thinking that their lives are any sort of private. And, because they don’t know they’re “imprisoned”, they don’t have the thought to protect their data, and fight back against those doing the surveillance.

The other caveat is the concept that the prisoners are completely separate from each other. In reality, the web allows us to communicate with each other, and gather information through online sources. If we want to educate ourselves about anything (including governmental surveillance procedures), we can do it. Those who are aware that they’re “imprisoned” do have the ability to band together and rebel, or at least try. The question of how we can best fight back still has yet to be answered.