From Password to Pepperspray. Associations in the context of surveillance.

Sandra Appleby-Arnold, Noellie Brockdorff, Daniele Mezzana

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Whilst those institutions or individuals who implement technological surveillance measures often claim that these aim to increase either national security or citizens’ personal safety, it has become increasingly accepted that such security will, inevitably, generate forms of insecurity as by-products. Fuelled by economic and political instabilities on a global scale, risks and uncertainty have supposedly become part of our everyday lives. But do we really live in such multi-leveled cultures of fear? Within SMART, a collaborative project co-funded by the European Union, research was conducted to explore citizens’ attitudes towards surveillance and privacy. As part of this study focus group discussions with a total of 320 participants in 14 European countries were carried out. At the beginning of each discussion, before the topic of surveillance was introduced, participants were asked to freely associate with terms such as privacy, national security, and personal safety. This unstructured and indirect soliciting of response encouraged respondents to project their underlying motivations, feelings or beliefs. Combining the word association study with content analysis and following a multidisciplinary approach, the qualitative results reveal a more nuanced picture relating to concepts of surveillance and protection. Neither privacy nor personal safety were predominantly associated with absence, loss or violation, but rather associations appeared to be influenced by local incidents, specifically related to dataveillance, or to perceptions and constructions of privacy itself. Associations with national security were, partially, linked to local political histories, but self-responsibility and self-defence appeared to play the more important role. These findings suggest that citizens’ attitudes to surveillance and personal safety may differ from those found in other studies based on direct questions. They shift the focus to more complex conceptualisations of protection where asymmetry may be both defective and productive.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2014
EventSurveillance Ambiguities & Assymetries.6th international Surveillance & Society conference - University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain
Duration: 23 Apr 2019 → …
Conference number: 6


ConferenceSurveillance Ambiguities & Assymetries.6th international Surveillance & Society conference
Period23/04/19 → …


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