Friday, March 27, 2015

SURPRISE! European Public Rejects Privacy-Security Trade-off

European Public Rejects Privacy-Security Trade-off

More ploughing through the SURPRISE results on European public’s attitudes towards Security-Oriented Surveillance Technologies (SOST) finds that few Europeans are willing to give up privacy in favour of more security.

This nine-nations European study on the European public’s attitudes towards Smart CCTV, Deep Packet Inspection (DPI), and Smartphone Location Tracking (SLT) finds that, while there are national differences, and SOST-differences, few people are willing to give up privacy in favour of more security.

‘In this study, participants who recognised the need to give up some of their privacy for better security were more willing to accept the SOST only in the case of DPI. We did not find similar results in the case of Smart CCTV and SLT.’ (Pavone et al. 2015, p.133)

This stands in contrast to statements by the UK Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) in their recent Privacy And Security Inquiry which invokes the will of the UK public as erring on the side of all bulk data collection (including the content of communications, meta-data, and phone location data) in order to prevent terrorism. The ISC states:

we do not subscribe to the point of view that it is acceptable to let some terrorist attacks happen in order to uphold the individual right to privacy – nor do we believe that the vast majority of the British public would’ (p.36).  

The UK was one of the nations in the nine-nations European study. However, the UK public was only asked to consider Smart CCTV and DPI. Further research into the UK public’s attitudes to surveillance of other data types would be useful.

Further research into why different nations’ publics largely refuse this privacy-security trade-off, whether this is influenced by public discourses on surveillance and dataveillance, and the precise nature of these discourses, would be valuable.

Also needed is research into whether intelligence agencies and politicians listen to these public views on their privacy and their security, rather than invoking a mythical public opinion unsupported by data or research.


ISC. (2015). Privacy And Security Inquiry. Retrieved from

Pavone, V., Esposti, S.D.  and Santiago, E. (2015). D 2.4 – Key factors affecting public acceptance and acceptability of SOSTs. Surprise. Surveillance, Privacy and Security: A large scale participatory assessment of criteria and factors determining acceptability and acceptance of security technologies in Europe. Retrieved from

No comments:

Post a Comment