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Some critics, such as Michel Foucault, believe that in addition to its obvious function of identifying and capturing individuals who are committing undesirable acts, surveillance also functions to create in everyone a feeling of always being watched, so that they become self-policing. This allows the State to control the populace without having to resort to physical force, which is expensive and otherwise problematic.

With the development of digital technology, individuals have become increasingly perceptible to one another, as surveillance becomes virtual. Online surveillance is the utilization of the internet to observe one’s activity. Corporations, citizens, and governments participate in tracking others’ behaviours for motivations that arise out of business relations, to curiosity, to legality. In her book Superconnected, Mary Chayko differentiates between two types of surveillance: vertical and horizontal. Vertical surveillance occurs when there is a dominant force, such as the government that is attempting to control or regulate the actions of a given society. Such powerful authorities often justify their incursions as a means to protect society from threats of violence or terrorism. Some individuals question when this becomes an infringement on civil rights.

Horizontal diverges from vertical surveillance as the tracking shifts from an authoritative source to an everyday figure, such as a friend, coworker, or stranger that is interested in one’s mundane activities. Individuals leave traces of information when they are online that reveal their interests and desires of which others observe. While this can allow people to become interconnected and develop social connections online, it can also increase potential risk to harm, such as cyberbullying or censoring/stalking by strangers, reducing privacy.

was a court case in the realm of cell phone privacy, even though the decision was later overturned. In this case, Gregory Diaz was arrested during a sting operation for attempting to sell ecstasy. During his arrest, police searched Diaz’s phone and found more incriminating evidence including SMS text messages and photographs depicting illicit activities. During his trial, Diaz attempted to have the information from his cell phone removed from evidence, but the courts deemed it as lawful and Diaz’s appeal was denied on the California State Court level and, later, the Supreme Court level. Just three short years after, this decision was overturned in the case Riley vs.