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KNL: David Lyon: "Pandemic Data: Surveillance Surge as Political Priority"

When Nov 09, 2021
from 06:00 to 08:00
Where Online (Webex Events)
Contact Name
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The COVID-19 pandemic is both the most extensive—global—pandemic, prompting an unprecedented surveillance surge, comparable to post-9/11, but far larger. Some pandemic efforts are treated as “national security” matters. A collusion occurred of public health surveillance and a parallel expansion of surveillance centred on the domestic sphere. Remotely conducted activities such as shopping, learning and working all enjoy enhanced surveillance capacities. So “state” surveillance is significant, but also, “corporate” surveillance mushrooms with the two often working in tandem, through public-private agreements. Questions are raised about some public health surveillance such as contact-tracing and vaccination certificates, but few about the overall surveillance surge. If the increased surveillance remains in place as the pandemic subsides, this poses major political challenges. As well as indicating an urgent need to update already existing legal and regulatory instruments, a broader response is also required, to raise the profile of “data justice.” This points not only to the notion that “privacy” might be violated or “data protection” impugned, but that a more universal challenge has surfaced. As surveillance data is the means whereby people are made visible, represented and treated, “data justice” is a new political priority, to ensure fair treatment for all in an increasingly digital culture.


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// Prof. Dr. David Lyon is the Principal Investigator of the Big Data Surveillance Project (2015-2021). He is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Socioiogy and Law at Queen's University and is the former director of the Surveillance Studies Centre. Educated at the University of Bradford in the UK, Lyon has been studying surveillance since the mid-1980s. Credited with spearheading the field of “Surveillance Studies”, he has produced a steady stream of books and articles that began with The Electronic Eye (1994) and continued with Surveillance Society (2001), Surveillance after September 11 (2003), Surveillance Studies (2007), Identifying Citizens (2009), Liquid Surveillance (with Zygmunt Bauman, 2013) and Surveillance after Snowden (2015). His most recent publication is The Culture of Surveillance (Polity, 2018) and he is currently working on Surveillance: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford). He has also co-edited a number of other books, mostly the products of team projects on surveillance, with research funding totalling almost $8 million. He is on the editorial boards of a number of journals, including Surveillance & Society and The Information Society. Most recently awarded the Outstanding Contribution Award by the Surveillance Studies Network(link is external) (2018) and the SSHRC Impact: Insight Award (2015), Lyon has also received numerous awards for his work, from Canada, Switzerland, the USA and the UK.

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