About the project

Project title

Surveillance and Crime Control: Ethical, legal and criminological aspects of emerging pre-crime detection and surveillance technologies

Presentation of the problem

Technical forms of surveillance, enabled by developments in microelectronics, databases and computer networks, have increased the surveillance of our daily life. Our communications, movements and even the functioning of our bodies are constantly recorded: communications in public telecommunication networks are tracked by mandatory data retention legislation, physical movement is monitored by video in public places, by GPS vehicle trackers, location-enabled body wearables, body-based location technologies, ambient intelligence and radio-frequency identity tags placed in items of everyday use, while the functioning of our body is screened by devices such as security body-scanners. In many Western societies, technology-enhanced surveillance has become perceived as a means of solving social problems, particularly those of crime and terrorism.

Technical surveillance enables more intensive, ubiquitous and permanent monitoring (24/7). It disregards boundaries of all kinds: night vision technology allows round-the-clock vigilance on the Schengen border, while police observers can literally stare though walls with thermal cameras. Goals include security (e.g. against terrorism), efficiency (e.g. of infrastructure systems) and transparency (e.g. of social transfers), and these are by no means the sole concern of a “Big Brother” state. Surveillance has been adopted by corporations, to whom no constitutional safeguards – such as the “separation of powers” – apply. In addition, not only the users but the objects and modes of surveillance technology have changed. Targets are not only individuals but entire demographic and social groups, not isolated locations but whole forms of activity and patterns of movement.

Reasons for the project

Technically enhanced surveillance is “digitalised”. This allows agencies to accumulate, preserve and organise data much more efficiently, creating sensitive personal data databases and using tools such as “data mining” to combine and cross-reference information from formerly separate sources. The impact on fundamental liberties, especially equality and privacy, and on basic principles of democratic liberal societies, has consequently been profound. New surveillance technologies purport to be neutral, but it is necessary to analyse them from ethical, legal, human rights and criminological perspectives. For technology is inescapably political in its uses. By protecting, for example, environments characterised by social, political and economic inequalities it can reinforce the conditions already at work there, to the detriment of social equality, justice and social cohesion. Analysis of the kind proposed here would assist the development of a more informed social policy and of technology attuned to more socially cohesive ends.

Scientific starting points
                   
There is a broad academic consensus that surveillance has been both enlarged and intensified in recent years (Ball, Webster 2003; Haggerty in Ericson 2000; Staples 2000). Surveillance has become a “leading organisational principle of the late modern societies” (The New Transparency Project, Queen's University, Canada) and our “everyday experience” (Lyon 2001). Foucault’s theory of the panopticon has been succeeded by notions of a still more complex yet less tangible “superpanopticon” (Poster: for similar theories see also Goombridge, De Angelis, Koskela, Butchart and Bousquet).

Technically enhanced surveillance has been described in criminological terms as supporting a “pre-emptive justice” model (Zedner, Brown and Korff). The exceptional computing capacities of IT are leading us into a “pre-crime society”, which focuses not only on investigating accomplished crimes, but also detecting the perpetrators of crimes yet to be committed.

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Conferences and seminars

Predstavitev poročila Agencije FRA o temeljnih pravicah v EU 2016

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Gradnja novega zapora

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Research Notes

Okrogla miza "Pravo v dobi velikega podatkovja: Ali lahko računalnik sodi bolje kot sodnik?", Ljubljana 2015

Inštitut za kriminologijo pri Pravni fakulteti v Ljubljani in Pravna fakulteta Univerze v Ljubljani...

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