Current Research Projects

Living in Surveillance Societies (LiSS)

The Living in Surveillance Societies (LiSS) COST Action is a European research programme designed to increase and deepen knowledge about living and working in the surveillance age, in order to better understand the consequences and impacts of enhanced surveillance, and subsequently to make recommendations about its future governance and practice. The underlying theme of the programme is that technologically mediated surveillance - the systematic and purposeful attention to the lives of individuals or groups utilising new ICTs - is a ubiquitous feature of modern society, with citizens routinely monitored by a range of sophisticated technologies. Yet, despite these developments relatively little is known about the depth of personal surveillance or how our personal information is used.

The LiSS programme is the first international multidisciplinary academic programme to consider issues relating to everyday life in surveillance societies. At it’s heart is a network of academic surveillance experts generating important knowledge for academia, citizens, government, public agencies and private sector. It is also raising awareness of surveillance in society and is contributing to better informed surveillance policy and practice across Europe. The four year programme, which started in April 2009, is administered by COST (European Cooperation in the field of Scientific and Technical Research) and supported by the EU Framework Programme. The programme is facilitating thematic collaborative research in the field of technologically mediated surveillance through a series of active working groups, workshops, seminars, annual conferences, publications, short-term scientific missions and a doctoral school for young researchers in the field. To date, this collaborative venture has attracted over 150 expert participants from 26 countries. LiSS is administered by the Stirling Management School.

Staff involved: Professor William Webster (Chair of the LiSS Action); Professor Charles Raab; Dr Kirstie Ball.

Project website:


Surveillance, Privacy and Security (SurPRISE)

The SurPRISE project re-examines the relationship between security and privacy, which is commonly positioned as a ‘trade-off’. Where security solutions involve the collection of information about citizens, questions arise as to whether their privacy has been infringed. This infringement of individual privacy is sometimes seen as an acceptable cost of enhanced security. Similarly, citizens are seen as willing to trade-off their privacy for enhanced personal security in different settings. These common understandings of the security-privacy relationship, both at state and citizen levels, have informed policymakers, legislative developments and best practice guidelines concerning security developments across the EU. However, an emergent body of work questions the validity of the security-privacy trade-off, suggesting that this has over-simplified the consideration of the impact and acceptability of security solutions on citizens in current security policy and practice. Thus, the more complex issues underlying privacy concerns and public scepticism towards surveillance-oriented security solutions (SOSSs) may not be apparent to legal and technological experts.

In response to these developments, this project will consult with citizens from several EU member and associated states on the question of the security-privacy trade-off as they evaluate different security solutions. Through extensive preparatory work, the project will identify and empirically examine the influence of a broad range of issues upon their evaluations. Using citizen consultation meetings, questionnaires and innovative visual methods, a representative, fine-grained picture from across Europe will be provided. Further, citizens’ understanding of privacy protection laws, their enforcement, and the acceptance levels of SOSSs, will be explained. Finally, a set of context-dependent dimensions for decision support concerning the acceptability of new SOSSs which promotes civil rights protection will be produced.

Staff involved: Dr Kirstie Ball; Professor Sally Dibb; Mrs Sara Degli Esposti.

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Increasing Resilience in Surveillance Societies (IRISS)

IRISS will investigate societal effects of different surveillance practices from a multi-disciplinary social science and legal perspective. It will focus on the effects that surveillance practices introduced to combat crime and terrorism can have on citizens in open and democratic societies. It will review surveillance systems used in fighting crime and terrorism and will examine the driving forces that have led to the spread of these practices. It will review current research on public attitudes towards surveillance, the impact of surveillance on civil liberties and citizens' trust in political institutions. The project involves 16 partners across Europe and is being led by the Institute for the Sociology of Law and Criminology, based in Austria.

Staff involved: Professor William Webster; Mr Charles Leleux; Dr Kirstie Ball; Dr Richard Jones; Professor Charles Raab; Dr Keith Spiller.

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Security Impact Assessment Measures (SIAM)

SIAM aims to broaden the decision making processes of end-users on how to invest into security measures and technologies through integrating these conflict perspectives. The overall objective is to create a decision support system, which will firstly widen the complexity of technologies assessments beyond economic aspects and will secondly reduce this complexity through a systematic approach of assessment guidelines. Where today decision makers have to oversee a wide range of relevant aspects from different scientific fields, taking in consideration both national as well as cultural interests, SIAM will pass the necessary information in a structured manner to the decision maker. The project will integrate the partners’ practical experience into the decision support system. The empirical basis for this is formed by four case studies of leading infrastructure providers featuring a significant level of security measures and technologies and each highly experienced in their respective field.

Staff involved: Professor Charles Raab

Project website:

The PRIvacy and Security MirrorS: Towards a European framework for integrated decision making (PRISMS)

The PRISMS project will analyse the traditional trade-off model between privacy and security and devise a more evidence-based perspective for reconciling privacy and security, trust and concern. It will examine how technologies aimed at enhancing security are subjecting citizens to an increasing amount of surveillance and, in many cases, causing infringements of privacy and fundamental rights. It will conduct both a multidisciplinary inquiry into the concepts of privacy and security and their relationships and an EU-wide survey to determine whether people evaluate the introduction of security technologies in terms of a trade-off. As a result, the project will determine the factors that affect public assessment of the security and privacy implications of a given security technology. The project will use these results to devise a decision support system providing users (those who deploy and operate security systems) insight into the pros and cons, constraints and limits of specific security investments compared to alternatives taking into account a wider society context.

Staff involved: Professor Charles Raab

Project website:


Software-based systems are becoming increasingly long-lived. This was demonstrated strikingly with the occurrence of the year 2000 bug, which occurred because software had been in use for far longer than its expected lifespan. At the same time, software-based systems are getting increasingly security-critical since software now pervades the whole critical infrastructures dealing with critical data of both nations and also private individuals. There is therefore a growing demand for more assurance and more verified security properties of IT systems both during development and at deployment time, in particular also for long living systems. Yet a long lived system also needs to be flexible, to adapt to changes and adjust to evolving requirements, usage and attack models. However, using today's system engineering techniques we are forced to trade flexibility for assurance or vice versa. Our objective is thus to develop techniques and tools that ensure "lifelong" compliance to evolving security, privacy and dependability requirements for a long-running evolving software system. This is challenging because these requirements are not necessarily preserved by system evolution. The project will develop techniques, tools, and processes that support design techniques for evolution, testing, verification, re-configuration and local analysis of evolving software. The project results will be applied and evaluated in particular in the industrial application domains of mobile devices, digital homes, and large scale air traffic management which all offer both great research challenges and long-term business opportunities.

Staff involved: Professor Bashar Nuseibeh; Dr Thein Tun; Dr Yujin Yu

Project website:

Assessing Security Research: Tools and Methodologies to measure societal impact (ASSERT)

The ASSERT project, which is scheduled to start in 2013, aims to provide tools, guidelines and recommendations on how to assess and mainstream the societal impacts of EU security research activities. The work will include an overview of the current state of the art on societal security, including present good practices. It will also create a pool of expertise to be utilised by the European Commission in implementing the recommendations. The outcomes will include a roadmap on how to integrate societal security in the next EU framework programme for research and innovation, with the expected impact being to ensure a better integration of the societal dimension of security research into start of new EU projects, activities and programmes.

Staff involved: Professor William Webster; Mr Charles Leleux

Project website: n/a

The New Transparency

The New Transparency makes visible the identities of individuals, workings of institutions and flows of information in ways never before seen. Surveillance, the social process underlying the New Transparency, is rapidly becoming the dominant organizing practice of our late modern world. Given growing computer-dependence and reliance on personal data collection and processing by a variety of institutions, and heightened public concern about security, surveillance is now experienced as an everyday reality. The history, key characteristics and consequences of the New Transparency will be examined by asking three vitally important questions:

  • What factors contribute to the general expansion of surveillance as a technology of governance in late modern societies?
  • What are the underlying principles, technological infrastructures and institutional frameworks that support surveillance practice?
  • What are the social consequences of such surveillance both for institutions and for ordinary people?

An internationally respected team, comprising many of the leading surveillance scholars in the world, address these questions by conducting research on emergent surveillance fields, guided by a framework of "domains" that are linked to "trends." The domains are: public spaces, electronic interactions, and mega events. The trends are: pre-emptive goals achieved through data mining and profiling of individuals to anticipate future behaviour patterns, assign risk levels or allocate resources; criminalization of personal data, that is, the use of "innocent" sources of mundane personal information as databases for crime control; and citizenship challenges based on differential treatment. The domains and trends are used as map and compass to develop the research program of integrated research sub-projects (IRSPs). Four IRSPs have been chosen as vital components to address the research objectives head-on and as a means to operationalize the domains and trends. The IRSPs are: The Role of Technology Companies, Digitally Mediated Surveillance, Surveillance Consequences of 9/11 and Surveillance and Population Management. Each IRSP represents a cluster of crucially important surveillance research questions amenable to carrying out this comparative and cross-disciplinary analysis.

The goal is to create a benchmark for surveillance studies that is comparative and critical, informed by multi-disciplinary approaches and has cutting-edge policy relevance. It will move beyond the limitations of existing local- and present-oriented studies to comparative and cross-disciplinary studies, and will take into account rapid information technology changes and pivotal political-economic and cultural shifts, not least the developments since 9/11. No previous collaborative research project worldwide has undertaken the examination of surveillance in the way proposed.

Staff involved: Dr Kirstie Ball; Mrs Sara Degli Esposti; Professor Charles Raab

Project website:


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