How will surveillance and privacy technologies impact on the psychological notions of identity ?

After discussing the developments of surveillance and privacy technologies (with privacy protection lagging behind), Ian Brown (Oxford University) argues that they are likely to :

> Bring about Distrust in personal relationships and technology

“Control of information disclosure is an important part of managing personal relationships. Between partners and friends, controlled disclosure builds intimacy and trust, while the ability to tell “little white lies” can be essential to smooth over conflict. If new surveillance technologies do not come with adequate privacy features, this disclosure control will be damaged. This could erode social ties and potentially contribute to family breakdowns and fewer quality relationships. ”

> Negatively affect Social mobility and cohesion

“Private and public-sector surveillance and profiling will lead to individuals increasingly being offered differentiated products and services based on past behaviour, and to a more targeted exercise of power in areas such as criminal justice and social security (Anderson et al. 2009). Unless approached carefully, this could significantly reduce aspiration and social mobility. It may also cause a reduction in social cohesion, if levels of common experiences and the perception of equal treatment are reduced.”

> Create Conformity and stigma 

“The Internet has given individuals greater freedom to explore different identities, reducing constraints on finding information about and participating in online discussion with similar others (McKenna 2007). Greater surveillance could constrain such “potential” selves, and force the revelation of stigmatised identities and interest in fringe ideologies – as well as reinforcing feelings of isolation, difference and shame”

> “Criminalize” citizens and be counter-productive in catching criminals : (mis) Judgment by authority

“While the use of privacy technologies (such as e-mail encryption) remains relatively unusual, users could be wrongly identified with those attempting to hide criminal activities. ”

> Disable the Plural society 

“Surveillance can have a significantly constraining effect on political debate and protest, and hence reduce the broader public debate on socially contested issues, and the ability of weaker groups to resist power.”

“Despite the technological opportunities for sousveillance, Ullrich and Wollinger (2011) note that power asymmetries remain for protestors. Police are “better equipped, outfitted with public legitimacy, more trusted by courts, in possession of other preventive and repressive instruments,” and can also seize protestors’ recordings for their own use (Ullrich and Wollinger, 2011: 24). They conclude that “a technical arms build-up of open and concealed surveillance… signals the encroachment of authoritarian concepts of the state and is a potentially dangerous attack on political participation from below” (p.33). ”

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