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“Person of Interest” relevant to privacy, censorship debates


“You are being watched. The government has a secret system, a machine that spies on you every hour of every day. I know because I built it. I designed the machine to detect acts of terror but it sees everything. Violent crimes involving ordinary people, people like you. Crimes the government considered ‘irrelevant.‘ They wouldn’t act, so I decided I would.”

Personal privacy, government monitoring, and censorship are all topics that define the heated debate between ensuring national security and preserving civil liberties. Especially after Edward Snowden reported that the US National Security Agency had the capability to closely monitor everyday citizens’ private lives, the world has shown keen interest in discussing the government’s responsibilities in “spying” on its own citizens.

“Person of Interest,” a TV series created by Jonathan Nolan, takes the idea of government surveillance to the absolute extreme: the entire world is monitored by a machine. The machine, created by billionaire Harold Finch (portrayed by Michael Emerson) to identify premeditated acts of terrorism, identifies possible “relevant” terrorists by producing a nine-digit social security number. Though created only to prevent terrorism, the machine records and sees everything, including the actions and communications of ordinary citizens not assessed to be threats.

Instead of allowing the “irrelevant” numbers of ordinary citizens to go overlooked, Harold Finch employs the help of John Reese (portrayed by Jim Caviezel), a former soldier and Central Intelligence Agency operative presumed to be dead. As the machine produces number after number, it is up to John and Harold to identify the “person of interest” as a perpetrator or a victim, and to prevent the tragedy the machine predicted was going to occur. As vigilante figures that often use extreme force to subdue the dangers identified by the machine, John and Harold work outside the boundaries of the law, and therefore are constantly chased by the police and Federal Bureau of Investigation. This conflict between the police and “Team Machine” raises many relevant questions about whether vigilantism is justifiable, or whether it is morally permissible to judge one person’s life as more valuable than another’s.

Just as compelling as the fast-paced and well-written storyline are the unpredictable action scenes. From shooting at enemies through a sun roof while driving backwards to exciting hand-to-hand combat, the action sequences align perfectly with what may be expected of a former soldier and government operative.

With its nail-biter storyline and never-ending action, “Person of Interest” will have viewers binge watching episode after episode.

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