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Collaborative research

The SSC facilitates collaboration between its

members and beyond. It advances the field of

surveillance studies through workshops,

lectures and seminars, empirical work, visiting

scholar programmes, publishing, community

outreach, liaising with policy and activist

groups, and student training.

Several major collaborative projects have been

funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities

Research Council of Canada. From 2008-

2015, the New Transparency project, a

seven-year major collaborative research

initiative, involved 36 colleagues from around

the world, including other key nodes at

Canadian institutions of higher education,

namely the University of Toronto, the University

of Alberta and the University of Victoria, as well

as the Open University in the UK.

The project examined the factors contributing to

the expansion of surveillance as a technology of

governance, including its underlying principles,

technological infrastructures and institutional

frameworks, and the social consequences of

surveillance for institutions and for ordinary

people. Annual workshops were held for the life

of the project, each of which resulted in at least

one book-length publication.


ur lives are being profiled and classified as never before. All

global citizens are affected by purposeful data collection,

whether through the use of supermarket loyalty cards,

enhanced driver’s licences, biometric passports, DNA databases, or social

media. These issues garnered international attention when, in June 2013,

Edward Snowden released a set of documents revealing the secret

activities of the US National Security Agency to the media and wider

public, stirring worldwide controversy.

The Surveillance Studies Centre (SSC) at Queen’s University in Kingston,

Ontario, Canada, is committed to research into the development of

expanding surveillance practices. This work began in the early 1990s and

grew rapidly after the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001. Formally

established in 2009, the SSC, under the leadership of Professor David

Lyon, has grown into a broad network of faculty and students undertaking

research that is both multidisciplinary and international. Through this work,

the SSC is actively drawing critical attention to the widespread implications

of the rapid acceleration of new surveillance technologies.

Tracking surveillance trends

Investigating the roots and growth of surveillance, and ‘surveillance

societies’ globally and locally, the SSC tracks general trends as well as

national and regional variations in colonial, authoritarian and democratic

societies. By understanding the issues, the SSC hopes to inform policy

and legislation.

Their examination of key surveillance trends starts with a rather obvious

realisation: surveillance has grown exponentially in the 21st Century.

What may be less than obvious, however, is just how much data is

gathered on each of us and how often. This makes us increasingly visible

to organisations that are decreasingly visible to us.

Other trends include the ways that ‘security’ has become a major driver

of surveillance, how surveillance is embedded in everyday environments

such as homes, buildings and vehicles, and how it often depends on

data taken from our bodies by biometric technologies such as body

scanners or voiceprint recognition. Also evident is the globalisation of

surveillance and the ways that we interact more than ever with

surveillance using social media.

Recent research has explored drones, camera surveillance, ID systems,

biometrics, border and airport controls, and ‘dataveillance’, referring to

what can be uncovered about our lives in the data trails we leave behind

wherever we go. Indeed, surveillance is any kind of ‘monitoring for

management’ or any systematic and focused attention on personal

information for purposes of entitlement, security, protection or control.


H O R I Z O N 2 0 2 0 P R O J E C T S : P O R TA L



Watching the watchers

With ever increasing tracking and surveillance of society, the Surveillance

Studies Centre at Queen’s University, Canada, studies the impact for the

benefit of both government and citizens

Increased monitoring

of online activity and

data trails left by

citizens has led to the

coining of the term


© Gerd Altmann