A surveillance of care

Evaluating surveillance ethically

Authored by: Eric Stoddart

Routledge Handbook of Surveillance Studies

Print publication date:  March  2012
Online publication date:  April  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415588836
eBook ISBN: 9780203814949
Adobe ISBN: 9781136711077


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Approaches to evaluating surveillance ethically can be broadly categorized as either rights-based or discursive-disclosive. In the first, procedural guarantees by which rights can be protected, the recourse effected when these are breached, and grounds established by which public debate can be conducted are deemed to be vitally important but, as this chapter demonstrates, such an approach is, for many critics, inadequate. For such commentators, the primary objective of socio-technical systems is human flourishing and, therefore, substantive content to this vision and attention to what is being done, not merely what ought to be done, are both seen as necessary additional dimensions of an ethical critique. As a discourse that discloses what is being done to us, surveillance studies itself is, although at first not obviously so, a method of ethical enquiry. Foregrounding the ethics of surveillance is of singular importance given the threats to the boundaries of bodies (see van der Ploeg, this volume), from automation instead of human intervention, and the prospect of being “faded-out” as a person when viewed on a screen that epitomize the emerging issues in this field.

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