Saturday, July 4, 2015

Seminar 3 Position Statement: Martina Feilzer, Criminology, Bangor Univ.

Public trust on state mass surveillance is low but does it matter?

by  Martina Feilzer

Public opinion surveys suggest that public trust in government is low as far as the use and regulation of state mass surveillance is concerned. This seems to be true in the USA, the UK, and across a number of European countries. But public opinion does not seem to matter. It seems as if governments rather than trying to manage public views are simply ignoring them. In this context, debates following the report of David Anderson, the UK’s Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation highlight the issue of trust and the appropriate limits on governments’ ability to collect surveillance data indiscriminately. This debate seems a little like a red herring as governments have ignored existing legal frameworks without apparent ramifications. It appears to me that government action is less about convincing citizens to give up their rights to privacy, etc., but rather to get them used to having their rights abused. So what current debates do not do is ask the question of how successive governments in a number of countries were able to ignore legal safeguards and the views of their citizens to mass surveil? How can citizens respond to this and what does it say about democracy?

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