Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Questions About Cyber-Surveillance in Everyday Life...

Recently, I was invited to an international workshop that's taking place in Toronto this upcoming May. It focuses on the issue of cyber-surveillance which has become widely prevalent, not necessarily only on behalf of governments, but by businesses, websites, and other entities as well.

It's the questions surrounding the issue which I find so interesting...

Digitally mediated surveillance (DMS) is an increasingly prevalent, but still largely invisible, aspect of daily life. As we work, play and negotiate public and private spaces, on-line and off, we produce a growing stream of personal digital data of interest to unseen others. CCTV cameras hosted by private and public actors survey and record our movements in public space, as well as in the workplace. Corporate interests track our behaviour as we navigate both social and transactional cyberspaces, data mining our digital doubles and packaging users as commodities for sale to the highest bidder. Governments continue to collect personal information on-line with unclear guidelines for retention and use, while law enforcement increasingly use internet technology to monitor not only criminals but activists and political dissidents as well, with worrisome implications for democracy...

  1. We regularly hear about ‘cyber-surveillance’, ‘cyber-security’, and ‘cyber-threats’. What constitutes cyber-surveillance, and what are the empirical and theoretical difficulties in establishing a practical understanding of cyber-surveillance? Is the enterprise of developing a definition useful, or condemned to analytic confusion?

  2. What are the motives and strategies of key DMS actors (e.g. surveillance equipment/systems/ strategy/”solutions” providers; police/law enforcement/security agencies; data aggregation brokers; digital infrastructure providers); oversight/regulatory/data protection agencies; civil society organizations, and user/citizens?

  3. What are the relationships among key DMS actors (e.g. between social networking site providers)? Between marketers (e.g. Facebook and DoubleClick)? Between digital infrastructure providers and law enforcement (e.g. lawful access)?

  4. What business models are enterprises pursuing that promote DMS in a variety of areas, including social networking, location tracking, ID’d transactions etc. What can we expect of DMS in the coming years? What new risks and opportunities are likely?

  5. What do people know about the DMS practices and risks they are exposed to in everyday life? What are people’s attitudes to these practices and risks?

  6. What are the politics of DMS; who is active? What are their primary interests, what are the possible lines of contention and prospective alliances? What are the promising intervention points and alliances that can promote a more democratically accountable surveillance?

  7. What is the relationship between DMS and privacy? Are privacy policies legitimating DMS? Is a re-evaluation of traditional information privacy principles required in light of new and emergent online practices, such as social networking and others?

  8. Do deep packet inspection and other surveillance techniques and practices of internet service providers (ISP) threaten personal privacy?

  9. How do new technical configurations promote surveillance and challenge privacy? For example, do cloud computing applications pose a greater threat to personal privacy than the client/server model? How do mobile devices and geo-location promote surveillance of individuals?

  10. How do the multiple jurisdictions of internet data storage and exchange affect the application of national/international data protection laws?

  11. What is the role of advocacy/activist movements in challenging cyber-surveillance?

  

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