Double safe?

Is the world becoming more dangerous? Many people seem to think so, citing terrorism, organised crime and even computer viruses. However much this fear may lie in the mind, demand for security-related goods and services has been rising. The annual turnover of the private security industry worldwide is growing at 7-8% per year and is now worth some US$100-120 billion, according to The Security Economy.

Governments and other public authorities have increased their overall spending on security, too. The US government’s homeland security funding doubled from 2002 to 2003 to its current level of well over $30 billion. The US Department for Homeland Security (DHS), created after 9/11, incorporates half of the budget. But surveillance is also becoming more private-oriented: in the US, expenditure on private security is estimated to be more than twice that on public law enforcement.

Surveillance is becoming increasingly intense. New identification and smart technologies, such as biometrics and radio frequency ID, are becoming more commonplace, and satellite-based monitoring is set to play a greater role. These security services are promising, but are open to abuse, The Security Economy warns. The challenge for civil society and government is how to prevent legitimate security measures from intruding on basic liberties, or technology from being misused in Big Brother fashion, the report says.

©OECD Observer No 246/247, December 2004-January 2005

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