Surveillance practices, often suspicious or clandestine, contrast with trusting relationships. In the twenty-first century, surveillance has expanded and intensified into a very complex global phenomenon, involving major corporate activity as well as policing and national security. Data analytics and AI have become commonplace in each form. Corporate surveillance is seen both in data-gathering and analysis done by platforms and in outsourcing government administration and services to internet corporations. Ordinary users of platforms are implicated in surveillance in unprecedented ways, as those surveilled and as those who engage with surveillance themselves. Trust is tangled and eroded in expanding ways, and with it, democracy, which depends on trust. Key factors are the changed conditions of possibility for trust, post-democratic practices of outsourcing and public-private partnerships, and an obsession with new modes of data capture and analysis. Non-values of efficiency, cost-effectiveness, speed and convenience trump human flourishing and the common good. New and different approaches are required to repair trust and recover democracy.
Professor David Lyon FRSC FAcSS is Director, Surveillance Studies Centre, Queen’s Research Chair in Surveillance Studies, Professor of Sociology and of Law at Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario.
He has contributed to Surveillance Studies, Social Theory and Sociology of Religion and has directed a number of large-scale multi-disciplinary research projects since 1996, totalling almost $8 million, mainly from SSHRC. The current collaborative project is Big Data Surveillance (2015-2020).