Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Seminar 5 Position Statement: Dr. Madeline Carr

Madeline Carr,
Politics & International Relations, Cardiff University
Connecting the Micro and the Macro in the Data PSST Project
There are a number of points of tension that arise when we begin to discuss issues of privacy, surveillance, security and trust – many of them have been explored to great advantage in the  previous seminars and many of them will feature in the special journal issue that will be produced at  the end of this process. In a way, though – the central tension arises from the question of perspective, and consequently, definition. Privacy to do what? Communicate with friends or plan  criminal activity? Security of what? The individual or the state? Surveillance by what means? By  CCTV cameras that we can see and are aware of? Or by methods like those used in the Prism  program about we are uninformed and have not given consent? In many ways, these tensions come  down to collective or individual conceptions of these four key terms. And in many ways, these  tensions are indicative of broader fears and concerns that animate contemporary (Western   societies.
With this seminar, we hope to bring into the conversation some of the challenges of reconciling  these tensions across borders. In the international. Beyond the state. Of course, thinking in terms of international relations when discussing the Internet or other digital technologies is, some will argue,  counter intuitive or even out dated. And to some extent, that may be the case. Digital technologies certainly challenge conceptions of borders, states, territory and even political communities in a  whole range of interesting and profound ways. But governments remain important actors in these  practices and they also remain important representatives of individual rights. Although we may disagree with many government approaches to the issues we have been discussing over the past 18 months, there remains an important relationship between civil society (or let’s just call them people) and the state. And to an extent, this relationship already transcends individual rights and expectations of privacy and security.
We believe that it is essential to take into account the international dimension if we wish to fully  comprehend what digital technology means for the individual. And knowing that individual conceptions of these issues vary so significantly, it will be no surprise that state level conceptions do  as well. How then, do we begin to unravel the tensions that have been so well articulated in these  seminars when we look beyond the state? What are some of the key challenges of harmonising international approaches to these tensions? And if we accept that a universal approach is unlikely, how do we begin to think about a more plural approach that can accommodate difference? I believe  that ideology and a whole range of assumptions about the ‘good’ or ‘bad’ of different approaches  inhibits thinking more creatively and more progressively about what, at the end of the day, are  questions fundamental to the human condition. And to human rights.

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