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The advent of surveillance realism: public opinion and activist responses to the Snowden leaks

Dencik, Lina and Cable, Jonathan 2017. The advent of surveillance realism: public opinion and activist responses to the Snowden leaks. International Journal of Communication 11 , pp. 763-781.

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The Snowden leaks provided unprecedented insights into the workings of state-corporate surveillance programs based on the interception and collection of online activity. They illustrated the extent of “bulk” data collection and the general and widespread monitoring of everyday communication platforms used by ordinary citizens. Yet public response in the United Kingdom and elsewhere has been considerably muted, and there has been little evidence of public outcry, with often conflicting and inconsistent opinions on the subject. Based on research carried out for the project Digital Citizenship and Surveillance Society, this article explores the nuances of public attitudes toward surveillance, including such attitudes among politically active citizens, through focus groups and interviews. We argue that the lack of transparency, knowledge, and control over what happens to personal data online has led to feelings of widespread resignation, not consent, to the status quo that speaks to a condition we identify as “surveillance realism.” We understand this to entail a simultaneous unease among citizens with data collection and with the active normalization of surveillance that limits the possibilities of enacting modes of citizenship and of imagining alternatives.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Journalism, Media and Culture
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN1990 Broadcasting
Uncontrolled Keywords: Snowden, surveillance, activism, public opinion, surveillance realism
Publisher: University of Southern California, Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism
ISSN: 1932-8036
Funders: ESRC
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 January 2017
Date of Acceptance: 13 December 2016
Last Modified: 14 Dec 2020 02:31

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