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"The SF approach: an awareness that things could have been different, that this is one of many possible worlds, that if you came to this world from some other planet, this would be a science fiction world."
- Neal Stephenson

Virtual Panopticon  
  A method that gathers information from many sources to effectively surveil any citizen as effectively as if he was in a glass cell.  

The term "panopticon" was coined by Jeremy Bentham in the late 18th century. The basic concept was that a watching guard could see easily into every corner of every cell in a specially designed circular prison.

Twelve Hawks expands on this idea, and creates the idea of a Virtual Panopticon that puts together all of the information available on a person, including real-time data on their location and activities. A prison without bars.

"...These days people are frightened of the world around them, and that fear is easily encouraged and maintained. People want to be in our Virtual Panopticon. We'll watch over them like good shepherds. They'll be monitored, controlled, protected from the unknown."

"Besides, they rarely recognize the prison. There's always some distraction. A war in the Middle East. A scandal involving celebrities. The World Cup or the Super Bowl... Fear may induce people to enter our Panopticon, but we keep them amused while they're inside."

From The Traveler, by John Twelve Hawks.
Published by Doubleday in 2005
Additional resources -

The phrase "virtual panopticon" is not original to Twelve Hawks. Take a look at this article to see the phrase used in a different way - The Virtual Panopticon (by David Endberg), which I think dates from 1996.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Traveler
  More Ideas and Technology by John Twelve Hawks
  Tech news articles related to The Traveler
  Tech news articles related to works by John Twelve Hawks

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