Research Report

IRISS (Increasing Resilience in Surveillance Societies) FP7 European Research Project, Deliverable 4.2: Doing privacy in everyday encounters with surveillance.



Neumann A, Berglez R, Kreissl R, Zurawski N, Fischer D, Fonio C, Leleux C, Webster CWR, Peissl W, Lastic E, Kovanic M & Spiller K (2014) IRISS (Increasing Resilience in Surveillance Societies) FP7 European Research Project, Deliverable 4.2: Doing privacy in everyday encounters with surveillance.. European Commission. European Commission, FP7, IRISS: Increasing Resilience in Surveillance Societies Deliverable, 4.2. IRISS.

The main idea of IRISS WP 4 was to analyse surveillance as an element of everyday life of citizens. The starting point was a broad understanding of surveillance, reaching beyond the narrowly defined and targeted (nonetheless encompassing) surveillance practices of state authorities, justified with the need to combat and prevent crime and terrorism. We were interested in the mundane effects of surveillance practices emerging in the sectors of electronic commerce, telecommunication, social media and other areas. The basic assumption of WP 4 was that being a citizen in modern surveillance societies amounts to being transformed into a techno-social hybrid, i.e. a human being inexorably linked with data producing technologies, becoming a data-leaking container. While this “ontological shift” is not necessarily reflected in citizens’ understanding of who they are, it nonetheless affects their daily lives in many different ways. Citizens may entertain ideas of privacy, autonomy and selfhood rooted in pre-electronic times while at the same time acting under a regime of “mundane governance”. We started to enquire about the use of modern technologies and in the course of the interviews focussed on issues of surveillance in a more explicit manner. Over 200 qualitative interviews were conducted in a way that produced narratives (stories) of individual experiences with different kinds of technologies and/or surveillance practices. These stories then were analysed against the background of theoretical hypotheses of what it means in objective terms to live in a surveillance society. We assume that privacy no longer is the default state of mundane living, but has to be actively created. We captured this with the term privacy labour. Furthermore we construed a number of dilemmas or trade-off situations to guide our analysis. These dilemmas address the issue of privacy as a state or “good” which is traded in for convenience (in electronic commerce), security (in law enforcement surveillance contexts), sociality (when using social media), mutual trust (in social relations at the workplace as well as in the relationship between citizens and the state), and engagement (in horizontal, neighbourhood watch-type surveillance relations). For each of these dilemmas we identified a number of stories demonstrating how our respondents as “heroes” in the narrative solved the problems they encountered, strived for the goals they were pursuing or simply handled a dilemmatic situation. This created a comprehensive and multi-dimensional account of the effects of surveillance in everyday life. Each of the main chapters does focus on one of these different dilemmas.

Workplace surveillance; CCTV; privacy; trust; fairness; control.

Title of seriesEuropean Commission, FP7, IRISS: Increasing Resilience in Surveillance Societies Deliverable
Number in series4.2
Publication date16/09/2014
Publisher URL

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Professor William Webster

Professor William Webster

Personal Chair, Management, Work and Organisation