———————– Surveillance, Privacy and Public Space, 2018 ————————-

Today, public space has become a fruitful venue for surveillance of many kinds. Emerging surveillance technologies used by governments, corporations, and even individual members of the public are reshaping the very nature of physical public space. Especially in urban environments, the ability of individuals to remain private or anonymous is being challenged.

Surveillance, Privacy, and Public Space problematizes our traditional understanding of ‘public space’. The chapter authors explore intertwined concepts to develop current privacy theory and frame future scholarly debate on the regulation of surveillance in public spaces. This book also explores alternative understandings of the impacts that modern living and technological progress have on the experience of being in public, as well as the very nature of what public space really is.

Representing a range of disciplines and methods, this book provides a broad overview of the changing nature of public space and the complex interactions between emerging forms of surveillance and personal privacy in these public spaces. It will appeal to scholars and students in a variety of academic disciplines, including sociology, surveillance studies, urban studies, philosophy, law, communication and media studies, political science, and criminology.

———————– Privacy in Public Space, 2017 ————————-

Privacy in Public Space – Conceptual and Regulatory Challenges Elgar Law, Technology and Society series

Edited by Tjerk Timan, Scientist Integrator Strategy and Policy, TNO, the Netherlands, Bryce Clayton Newell, School of Information Science, University of Kentucky, US and Bert-Jaap Koops, Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology and Society (TILT), Tilburg University, the Netherlands

This book examines privacy in public space from both legal and regulatory perspectives. With on-going technological innovations such as mobile cameras, WiFi tracking, drones and augmented reality, aspects of citizens’ lives are increasingly vulnerable to intrusion. The contributions describe contemporary challenges to achieving privacy and anonymity in physical public space, at a time when legal protection remains limited compared to ‘private’ space. To address this problem, the book clearly shows why privacy in public space needs defending. Different ways of conceptualizing and shaping such protection are explored, for example through ‘privacy bubbles’, obfuscation and surveillance transparency, as well as revising the assumptions underlying current privacy laws.
link to the book

———————– PhD Thesis, 2013 ————————-

Downloading the thesis can be done by clicking on the picture, or via this link (pdf). A Dutch summary can be downloaded here (pdf), and here is a summary:

Summary “Changing landscapes of surveillance. Emerging technologies and participatory surveillance in Dutch nightscapes”.

Problematizing nightly public space and surveillance

Surveillance is a current theme and locus of attention in Western societies. Accompanying this growing awareness, an increase in both number and type of surveillance technologies can be witnessed. One reason for this state of affairs lies in the reasoning that any evidence of a positive relation between surveillance technology and safety supports and encourages the deployment of surveillance technologies in a society. This agenda can be questioned, not only in terms of the necessity of developing technology for the sake of technology, but also in terms of the type of society we want to live in: what is a desirable future when it comes to surveillance technology in society?

Combinations of new and existing surveillance technologies create new aims in the world of surveillance, such as the creation of ‘blanket’ surveillance in public space, which means striving for a complete coverage of public space, or the ability to see everything all the time. Besides the technological challenges this brings about (challenges of aligning standards, formats, databases, code, storage times, hardware and so on), the goal of creating a totally covering surveillance network generates new problems in the ‘boundary-negotiations’ of surveillance in public space: e.g. that of losing control, or oversight, on what types of technology are actually ‘surveilling’ and who or what is surveilling who or what exactly. Combined with the emergence of more individualised ICT technologies in the same public spaces where surveillance technologies are in place, boundaries and relations between watcher and watched become blurry.

By communicating to the public that one is being watched in city centers, and that the city upholds rules of conduct in certain areas, the public who wants to do harm is warned while the public who is there to have fun is reassured: it is a safe but exciting place. In the case of ‘old’ surveillance technology such a Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV), there exists a sense of clear power relations that are at work: a government installs a camera and citizens in public space are the subject of surveillance for that camera. The cameras as well as the surveillance signs that can be encountered in public spaces communicate and inform on what is happening: you are a citizen and as such you are being watched. However, when, this gaze becomes decentralized and somehow ubiquitous, as we can witness with emerging social and mobile media technologies, it becomes more difficult to understand who is watching who and why: power relations and the boundaries of surveillance now have a multiplicity of negotiation-points in public space. This thesis aims to understand these negotiation-points by investigating how both humans and technologies shape surveillance practices in Dutch nightlife districts.

Combining three theoretical fields

Drawing from Urban Geography, Science- and Technology Studies and Surveillance Studies, I have combined concepts and heuristics in order to grasp how to think about surveillance technologies and their mediating role in Dutch nightscapes.

Urban geography looks at cities and citizens within cities. From this perspective, it also provides heuristics to think about different times and places within the city. One of these time-spaces is the landscape at night: the nightscape. There is a focus on creating safe and entertaining nightscapes: this focus can partly be explained by the economic ambitions of the local government and other actors involved in the development of public space. One of the means to reach this safety is via surveillance. Where there exists an assumption that public space and nightscapes are accessible and open to anyone, this can be questioned by looking at the playing out of surveillance and publicness as well as the way surveillance shapes a safe place for one but maybe a dangerous place for another at the same time.

In order to analyze surveillance technology, I have turned to Science-and Technology Studies. Besides the starting point that technologies are never neutral, it is also important to realise that surveillance technologies play out differently per situation and per local surveillance practice. This practice involves not only the policymakers and the designers, but also the end-users of these technologies. I have drawn from the concept of Actor-Network Theory as a way to analyse practices of- and relations between- policymakers, designers and users of emerging surveillance technologies.

A final discipline that plays a role in this thesis is Surveillance Studies. In an attempt to go beyond Foucauldian theories of power relations in society expressed via technology, I have mainly examined concepts that deal with new relations between surveillance and digital layers in public space that might influence the actual nightscape. Despite nightscapes being physical spaces in city centers, the role of digital layers and networks in these spaces has an undeniable influence. A challenge in this thesis has been to find combinations of existing theories of surveillance with new and complex practices witnessed in different nightscapes.

Cases and research sites

Following the theoretical approach that surveillance in urban nightscapes is made up of a combination of humans and technologies, the first step that is made in chapter 2 is to map different nightscapes in the Netherlands in terms of humans and things. Addressing the question of what constitutes the nightscape, chapter 2 shows that not only CCTV cameras and/or police officers shape the nightscape, but that a myriad of other actants influences the atmosphere in the nightscape. Mapping the research sites of Groningen, Utrecht and Rotterdam reveals the necessity to localise practices of surveillance technology: although technologies might seem ‘similar’, they are acted and reacted upon differently in each nightscape, hence emphasise that local culture and local context have to be taken into account when analyzing surveillance. The mappings of the nightscape thus allows to see changes in the surveillance network: the familiar landscape inhabited by static actants, such as CCTV camera, and organisational-surveillance actors, such as patrolling police officers and the occasional bouncer, are moving into a more complex landscape of surveillance in which different tools, owned by different stakeholder and used by different actors, create more uncertainty about who or what is being watched.

In chapter 3, I explore whether and how citizens respond to both CCTV- and mobile cameras in public nightscapes. One of the major findings of our empirical research is that, as with CCTV, OCTV cameras are, in specific contexts, also seen as surveillance technologies. While mobile cameras can be seen as a more democratic technology compared with CCTV because they allow for bottom-up control of camera (what is filmed) and footage (what will happen with the footage), in contrast to the closed and black-boxed technology character of CCTV, this openness creates uncertainty. Another important finding is that the respondents not only consider the mobile camera as a form of surveillance but they experience this surveillance as being stronger than the use of OCTV cameras, particularly when it concerns privacy. Examining the use of mobile phone camera in the nightscape creates the opportunity to investigate not only how this hybrid behaves in the nightscape but also if, indeed, just like the watched, the users of mobile phones connect their activities with their mobile phone camera with instances of surveillance. The presence of mobile phones is often overlooked by scholars in surveillance studies because the mobile phone camera is not conceived as a surveillance tool. Besides surveillance technology that is used by on the side of organisational surveillance (f.i. police or a local government), the mobile phone provides citizens with the possibility to also ‘surveil and monitor’ in public space or to collect evidence.

In order to analyze different types of use of mobile phones and social media in the nightscape in relation to questions of surveillance, I turn to the theoretical notion of participatory surveillance. In chapter 4, I distinguish two types of use of mobile phone cameras and bottom-up made footage, namely during a night out where the act of filming becomes a point of inquiry, and after a night out where sharing of data becomes the main issue in relation to surveillance. Adding some data to the pool of potential surveillance data is seen by these respondents as not necessarily positive or negative: they are ‘just’ visitors of the nightscape adding to the pool of data.

In chapter 5, I investigate the police-worn bodycamera as another emerging mobile surveillance technology. The same question as in chapter 4 can be asked here: How do these new hybrids behave in the nightscape and how do they change surveillance practices? In terms of surveillance, the bodycamera as a tool might seem symmetrical to the mobile phone camera (user-chosen moments to make recordings, mobile, human- level, direct connection between camera and operator). However, in practice, it resembles more the logics of use of a CCTV camera in the nightscape (uncertainty of those who are watched about its workings, hardly preventive, monitoring and aimed surveillance of citizens). Research of policy-design and use practices by turning to script analysis, interviews and participatory observations allows a more fine-grained analysis of how the bodycamera – police officer hybrid actually performs in practice, and consequently how it changes (or is changing) surveillance in local nightscapes.

In chapter 6, I analyze how important stakeholders in the Dutch nightscapes assess the current situation and future of surveillance technologies. A method is developed to engage engineers, policymakers and police officers in a fruitful debate surrounding emerging surveillance technologies and possible and desirable surveillance futures. This method is based on a combination of Constructive Technology Assessment (CTA) and design research methods. The participants of this workshop, who come from either policy, design or use practices of surveillance, not only have to create their own overview of what they regard as surveillance technology in the nightscape, but also have to create their own landscape of technology as actants in the nightscape. The offered technologies range between surveillance technology and consumer technology/electronics. This is done in order to steer the debate towards emerging technologies that are altering the landscape of surveillance, such as mobile phones and social media sites. The question concerning on whom technologies have influence is deliberately left open in order to see what (surveillance) technologies do in public space according to these participants.

Concerning surveillance futures, high-tech visions of surveillance thrive amongst some of the participants, while a strong belief in computational power and combinations of data sources was expected to lead to a smarter surveillance landscape. The workshop showed that new technologies such as social media do play a role in the surveillance assemblage. The question of good surveillance is answered in technological terms: good surveillance is mainly about the use of efficient and advanced technological tools. This approach to good surveillance can be understood in terms of the background of the workshop participants: all actors belong to the world of organisational surveillance and bear responsibilities for designing, regulating and practicing surveillance in landscapes that are already heavily inhabited by technological devices.

Participation, sharing and new media

Police-worn bodycameras and mobile phones represent respectively a top-down and a bottom-up development in surveillance networks visible in Dutch nightscapes, and they could be interpreted as a move towards more symmetry in cameras in these spaces. In analyzing these emerging technologies in the nightscape, I use the concept of participatory surveillance to describe and capture surveillance in urban nightscapes. Via the emerging technologies as described in this thesis, the question of participation is revisited as a phenomenon in the surveillance landscape. The concept of participatory surveillance is introduced in this thesis as a different perspective on surveillance studies, in an attempt to get away from established and/or a priori assumptions about power relations in analyzing surveillance. In previous descriptions of participatory surveillance, this concept was explained in terms of types of surveillance that are not only voluntary, but also playful and fun. When applying the participatory surveillance perspective to the specific surveillance practices investigated in this dissertation, I conclude that the act of participation is not merely voluntary, but is mediated by the scripts of technologies. The introduction of new technologies in the surveillance landscape implies a delegation of responsibilities in which nightscape visitors are invited to produce and share data that can potentially become surveillance data.

My dissertation shows that many acts of participation in surveillance, for instance by posting something on Facebook, are done non-deliberately or unconsciously insofar as the user of an upload-service or sharing-platform is ignorant of the potential of data being used by organisational surveillance. Participation goes beyond the scope of intentional or controllable action taken in a surveillance landscape: it also encompasses often invisible background networks where third parties are also involved in surveillance. I also show that the influence of emerging technologies, such as mobile phones connected to social media sites, creates new places of surveillance, and that through such technologies, surveillance is stretched from an in-situ and in-the-moment monitoring of public space to an extension of surveillance in time. In that sense, local instances and local contexts and surveillance networks need to be looked into in order to understand how and what type of surveillance is expressed locally in interaction with the surveillance networks that are in place.

The potential participation into networks of surveillance via technologies such as the bodycamera and the mobile phone is a (constant) negotiation between the interface of the technological object and its user. Looking into both interface design and assumptions in programming- and coding practices might shed another light on how and why these technologies are used and how negotiations of surveillance are inscribed into these interfaces.

Recommendations for good surveillance

That said, my recommendations for practice aim to address different stakeholders in organisational surveillance and to address some overarching points that are important to take into account in the governance of surveillance. If one would apply responsibility in the context of sustainability, the only true innovation in surveillance in urban nightscapes is to stop all forms of camera surveillance (since its effect is hard to prove and its electricity bill keeps growing). In terms of innovations in surveillance technologies, thinking through and anticipating on how technologies are involved in delegations of responsibilities to humans and things might prove a valuable starting point. The insight that responsibilities are inscribed in technological objects and shared in a network of humans and technologies is especially relevant in questions of good surveillance, where there exists a heavy reliance on technologies in surveillance practices.

Responsible innovation may, as stated by the MVI program, indeed be improved by injecting social and ethical questions in the design process at an earlier stage. However, the questions and explanations surrounding what responsible innovation means go beyond the design process of one technological innovation. Rather, these questions have a multitude of other stakeholders, such as policymakers, users (the watchers) and implicated actors (the watched). Instead of repeating the interrogations that dominate the (policy) discourses surrounding surveillance, such as ‘does a camera work’ or ‘how many cameras do we need to make a safe city centre’, examining what happens in the nightscape in terms of who is there and what kinds of technologies they use for what purposes, provides a different perspective on policies for introducing surveillance technologies and their role in shaping surveillance. Emerging technologies in the nightscape exemplify the point that through them, existing policies surrounding surveillance, watching and watched are being questioned. The challenge for design processes lies not only in connecting micro-inscriptions with end-user behavior, but also in connecting local design choices concerning specific surveillance devices with a larger network of surveillance technologies. For police officers and other surveillance practitioners, the changing landscape of surveillance also means that ways of working might be under scrutiny. The landscape of surveillance has become more complex: this complexity should also be reflected in the creation and anticipation of future surveillance practices.