IT Futures

University of Edinburgh

Charles D. Raab

Surveillance and Security: Threat, Protection and Research


Surveillance is an instrument for national and other forms of security. It is a diverse set of practices that can benefit but also threaten individuals and societies in terms of human rights and a range of values, including freedoms and privacy. How should we think about surveillance, privacy and security? What protects us from the excesses of surveillance?

Research into surveillance is making some headway towards understanding these situations and shaping policy recommendations. But some forms of research themselves have surveillance potential, pointing up researchers’ need to be aware of the ethical and legal implications of their work when personal data are involved in the research process.

These issues are not new, but they have special salience in the era of ‘(big) data science’, in which new sources of data and analytic techniques are available. How far can data-science researchers take into account the possible detrimental effects of their work, and how far they can reconcile value conflicts that arise in their production of knowledge?




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