Surveillance, Identity & Privacy
Surveillance and Identity: Discourse, Subjectivity and the State. Ashgate, 2012.
My book! An updated, much improved version of my PhD thesis turned into (hopefully) a more accessible and readable version, updated to include thoughts on the future of uk ID schemes post-election and the scrapping of the National Identity Register.
Surveillance and Identity analyses the discourse of surveillance in the contemporary United Kingdom, drawing upon public language from central government, governmental agencies, activist movements, and from finance and banking. Examining the logics of these discourses and revealing the manner in which they construct problems of governance in the light of the insecurity of identity, this book shows how identity is fundamentally linked to surveillance, as governmental discourses privilege surveillance as a response to social problems.
In drawing links between new technologies and national surveillance projects or concerns surrounding phenomena such as identity fraud, Surveillance and Identity presents a new understanding of identity - the model of 'surveillance identity' - demonstrating that this is often applied to individuals by powerful organisations at the same time as the concept is being actively contested in public language.
UK News Media Discourses of Surveillance, Sociological Quarterly, Vol. 52, No.4, 2011
This paper examines the way that surveillance activity is represented in major UK news papers. It is part of the same project as 'Surveillance and Identity' and uses a similar methodology - although with some adjustments to deal with the vagaries of media publications. The main finding is that there are two broad schema in the way that surveillance is represented and evaluation in the UK press. On one hand there is a schema of positive surveillance, which is targeted at the right people, protects people from crime and abuse, and is seen as a financial or policy investment in a problem. On the other hand is a view of surveillance as negating privacy, a waste of money, and targetting the wrong people. These sets of views seem to cluster together pretty heavily.
I first presented this research at the the International Sociological Association world congress in Gothenberg in July 2010 as part of a panel on surveillance organised by Torin Monahan and David Lyon. Torin's put together the special issue of Sociological Quarterly which I'm very happy to be part of. The anonymous reviewers on this paper also deserve some credit for asking a range of questions which led to a much more robust and clear paper.
David Barnard-Wills & Debi Ashenden (2010) Public Sector Engagement with Online Identity Management. Identity in the Information Society, Vol.3 Issue. 3
This article was produced as part of the VOME project, and first presented at the 3rd Identity in the Information Society workshop. The paper was restructred from the workshop version and benefitted from some helpful comments and suggestions, especially from Charles Raab and Mireille Hildebrandt. Edward Higgs discussion prompted a (hopefully) clearer rationale for making use of governmentality theory - that it was being used as an approach for conducting an contemporary political analysis, seperate from Foucault's discipinary thesis. For the VOME project, the research forms part of an examination of broader narratives of privacy, consent and personal information in the UK, intended to inform further work in alternate ways of conceptualising and discussing privacy and producing social privacy interventions. It will also hopefully help to provide the project with a contextual grounding in contemporary technology and information politics. This paper attempted to show how government (understood fairly broadly) was communicating with the public around issues of online identity management, a topic closely related to privacy.
This paper links into debates around the best way to communicate, and engage around science and technology issues, especially those that have a mass impact. Privacy is now a socio-technological issue and we can learn something from those debates.
David Wills & Stuart Reeves, 'Facebook as a Political Weapon' British Politics, Vol. 4, No.2 258-265
This paper uses a case study of Facebook to examine the potential use of social networking sites (SNS) for political advantage. Drawing upon contemporary surveillance studies and information technology approaches, it aims to provide insights from these for the study of British politics. The paper uses a model of a constituency election to show the ease and effects of SNS data-mining in support of political campaigning. In doing so, it examines the political implications of machine readable personal data, the design of information systems, and the problems of inductive heuristics and social sorting.
It's cited here, here and here and has cropped up as recommended reading on the University of Warwick's Politics and International Studies 'Introduction to Research Methods' module
Helen Wells and David Wills. "Individualism and Identity Resistance to Speed Cameras in the UK" Surveillance & Society [Online], 6 26 Apr 2009
As a surveillance technology, speed cameras have produced significant levels of resistance from the general (driving) public. This resistance has not, however, drawn on the kinds of civil liberties or 'Big Brother' narratives that might be expected. Using this context as a case study, this paper suggests that significant resistance to surveillance practices may emerge when surveillance technologies produce data doubles that are antagonistically incompatible with those identities which have emerged 'organically' from the resisting individuals and communities.
In this example, the self-ascribed identity of normal, respectable, non-criminal drivers is threatened by technologies of risk and 'techno-fixes' which (through their operation) construct identities as risk-carrying, deviant, and criminal. The sense of unfairness generated by this conflict between how we see ourselves and how the disciplining state sees us generates a sense of injustice. This sense of injustice is fertile ground for resistance.
The paper identifies three main narrative themes in discourses of resistance to speed cameras, including the rejection of the official expertise used to justify surveillance and punishment, and the construction of a narrative which positions the drivers as an ordinary person resisting an oppressive state. The final narrative highlights the danger posed by other groups which, being constructed as genuinely and uncontroversially deviant, are more worthy of surveillant attention. As such, the paper suggests that, while offering fertile ground for the generation of resistant strategies, the speed camera context produces a very particular, very individualised, type of resistance which may actually contribute to existing processes of
discrimination and 'othering' amongst surveilled populations.
David Wills (2008) 'The United Kingdom Identity Card scheme: shifting motivations, Static Technologies’ in Bennett and Lyon (eds) ‘Playing the Identity Card: Surveillance, Security and Identification in Comparative Perspective.’ Routledge
My contribution to a volume which looks are identification cards across the world. There's a lot of other material in this book that is very worth reading. My chapter looked at the most recent UK identity cards proposals (at the time of writing it - some small details in the proposals had changed by the time the book got into print, but I think the main point still stands. I guess that's one of the perils of writing about contemporary issues). The main point being that whilst the discourse surrouding the cards has changed over time (including the reasons the government gives for why it wants to introduce identity cards) the core proposals have been relatively static. This is either because the reasons given are not the core reasons, or government isn't quite sure why and for what it wants the identity cards, but is pretty convinced that we should have them. This is probably a bad idea from a systems design perspective.
Cyber and Information Security
David Barnard-Wills & Debi Ashenden (2012)'Securing Virtual Space: cyber war, cyber terror and risk' Space and Culture
Virtual, digital, online space is constructed through various security discourses as a particular type of dangerous, threatening space, supportive of hostile actors and needing to be secured. This paper looks at these discourses and pulls out some of the regularitites. I started writing it when I started working at Cranfield, and threw myself into the information seccurity literature that had a politcal or international relations link. I saw a lot of axioms being repeated over and over, and wondered which of these had a basis in truth, and which were simply part of a security discourse. This is particularly important because online space is current being positioned as something which needs intervention from security actors, which will have implications for its future development and use. I think that buzzword 'cyber' is a term which signifies the current politicisation of information security.
David Barnard-Wills (2012) 'E-Safety education: Young people, Surveillance and Responsibility' Criminology & Criminal Justice. Vol 12. Issue 3. 239-255.
As part of the VOME project, we looked at potential sources of public knowledge on online privacy. One potential source was what was being taught in schools. What we found was this was primarily 'E-safety' information, much of which was produced by the police. It has certain priorities and focus which diverged from other perspectives on privacy and online surveillance. This paper is a discourse analysis of this education material. The paper is a good intro, and has the complete political discussion, but I've also got a full 100+ page report on the e-safety material, which goes into a very fine-grained discourse analysis, looking at, for example, roles, representations, positively and negatively evaluated behaviour and much more.
David Barnard-Wills (2011) "This is not a Cyber War, it's a...?" WikiLeaks, Anonymous and the Politics of Hegemony.' The International Journal of Cyber Warfare and Terrorism. 1(1).
There was a lot of hyperbolic news reporting of the series of hacking, denial of service attacks and other methods used by and against the online social movement Anonymous in its support of Wikileaks. This paper makes two main arguments. Firstly that labelling this type of activity as 'war' is counter-productive, and highlights the wrong type of response - both political and in security terms. This draws upon the securitisation literature in international relations, which is a fairly common perspective now. As part of this, I argue that critical security studies perspectives are potentially better suited to engaging with 'cyber' security than traditional (realist) IR theories. The second part of this argument is that the self-adopted political identities and avowed values of anonymous are critically important in understanding their actions and their politics. The paper draws upon Gramsci and Laclau to demonstrate this.
Security. Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism
David Barnard-Wills & Cerwyn Moore (2010) Terrorism of the Other: Towards a Contrapuntal Reading of Terrorism in India. Critical Studies on Terrorism. Vol. 3. Issue 3.
This paper is a more theoretical look at the research into terrorism in India that also produced the paper 'Lessons from Mumbai' with Cerwyn and Jon Coaffee. In this paper we use Edward Said's postcolonial theory of 'Travelling theory' and 'Contrapuntal reading' to examine how ideas about security and terrorism travel around the globe. We show how terrorism events, such as the Mumbai attacks in November 2008 are pulled out of their local context and represented in Western media and security discourse in ways that suit and sustain the assumptions or worldview of that discourse. We look at how a focus upon novelty with each terrorism event prompts greater security reactions, and show how western security representations of events can feed back to the developing world, with implications for resource allocation and political decision making. 'Our' security constructions are powerful things, and they have the capability to go off travelling around the world without our noticing it.
The paper also attempts to make an engagement with the developing field of critical terrorism studies. We have to be careful in studying terrorism and counter-terrorism not to unquestioningly repeat and perpetuate security orthodoxy. However, it is also possible to miss something important if we focus only on how governments construct and represent this thing they call terrorism. Showing that terrorism is a social construct does not mean that it does not have social weight and purchase. There is a policy debate around terrorism, and it does not really do any social good for academics with critical positions to except themselves from that debate, leaving it to be dominated by orthodox positions. There is a communication issue here, involving the language in which that debate is conducted, which as a discourse analyst, I'm all too sensitive too.
Jon Coaffee, Cerwyn Moore, & David Barnard-Wills (2010) ‘Lessons from Mumbai: Terrorism & Crowded Places’ RUSI National Security & Resilience Monitor. Royal United Services Institute.
This paper is a shorter policy-relevant piece on the dangers of reacting unthinkingly towards each new act of terrorism, and discounting the resilience already present amongst cities and communities. It draws upon research we conducted into several acts of terrorism in India. It tries to be critical whilst still having some usefulness (rather than criticism for the sake of criticism). Main point: don't underestimate the existing resilience in cities and communities, and listen to those communities when making up resilience and counter-terror plans.
Cerwyn Moore & David Barnard-Wills (2010) 'Russia and Counter-Terrorism: A Critical Appraisal' in A. Siniver (Ed) International Terrorism Post-9/11: Comparative Dynamics and Responses, Routledge.
In this chapter, Ces and I took a look a contemporary Russian counter-terrorism activity, and tried to put it in a broader context, both historically and in terms of the type of conflict being waged. The focus of Russian CT activity is Chechnya, therefore this was also the focus of our chapter, and drew upon Ces' fieldwork and in-depth knowledge. I added in some of the older historical material, looking at issues of terrorism and counter-terrorism in the context of the pre-revolutionary movements, and during the cold war. We also felt it important to draw attention to the 'information-war' being actively pursued by Russia, alongside more traditional strategies. Whilst the Chechen militia have been able to make use of the web - for example, publishing videos of attacks, and communicating with wider diaspora supporters, the Russian government has been adept too, making use of the full resources of the state (and beyond) to compete on this terrain. The book in general is also a good resource, covering a wide range of topics.
This paper examines security and place branging in post-communist Russia. It begins by offering a critical summary of the tension between place branding and identity, before moving on to apply securitisation theory to the Caucausus. The paper then moves on to advance a more refined reading of 'place branding' so as to trace shifts in public perceptions of Chechnya since 2004. In so doing, the paper will challenge assumptions underpinning securitisation, and critique the literature on place branding.
Place branding is the way that cities and locations are marketed (for example as a tourist destination, for investment or as a great place to host your next world summit). It's developed it's own set of practices and norms, and this paper looked to pick apart some of those from an international relations perspective. We argued that place branding doesn't level the international playing field, and there were some places (Chechnya for example) which were going to be very tricky to create a postive 'brand' for.
'Computer Crime' Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology 'POSTnote' 271, October 2006
The briefing note that I wrote during my three month fellowship with the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, which was a great experience. It's a primer on computer crime for the technologically uninitiated. And members of parliament.
Oscar Gandy's 'Coming to Terms with Chance' in Surveillance and Society, Vol. 8. No.3
This book is really important. If you're looking at social sorting, categorisation and actuarial surveillance, read the review, then the book.
David Lyon's 'Identifying Citizens' (2009) in Surveillance and Society, Vol. 8. No.2
'Beautiful Suffering, Photography and the Traffic in Pain' and 'Lynching Photographs' in Surveillance and Society, Vol 5, Issue 2
The book review editor at Surveillance and Society thought I'd be the perfect person to review books about (and containing) photographs of tortue and suffering. What did I do to deserve that? Actually, writing this review got me thinking about the overlap between aesthetics, photographic theory and surveillance - something I'd like to explore more thoroughly at a later date. Main point - images (artistic or surveillant) always need an interpretor to tell us what they contain. The interpretor will often say 'the image speaks for itself' immediately before they do this.