In-depth perspective of European citizens on surveillance, privacy and security

Does more security invariably lead to less privacy? An EU initiative looked into the trade-off thinking between privacy and security in order to provide new insight into the links between surveillance, privacy and security.

European politicians and decision makers assume that citizens automatically consent to security measures that involve surveillance, and that they want and accept a very high degree of public and private surveillance in daily life to feel safe and secure. However, surveillance technologies and practices do not necessarily reflect the views of citizens.

With this perceived trade-off in mind, the EU-funded SURPRISE (Surveillance, privacy and security: A large scale participatory assessment of criteria and factors determining acceptability and acceptance of security technologies in Europe) project explored the views of Europeans to spark an informed debate on security policies and their effect on privacy.

Project partners mapped key security challenges and related security policies and technologies. Criteria and factors that affect the acceptance and acceptability of surveillance-oriented security technologies (SOSTs) were identified, assessed and tested. They identified and elaborated on options to influence security measures in order to conform with ethical and privacy requirements from a technical, legal and social standpoint. Based on these outcomes, a theoretical model of criteria and factors that impact acceptability was developed and tested empirically. It showed that the trade-off approach is by far oversimplifying reality, hence it is not suitable to inform policymaking adequately.

To gauge citizens' attitudes towards the relationship between surveillance and security and on specific surveillance technologies, a series of large-scale summits and smaller meetings were held that involved about 2 000 participants in 9 European countries.

Results of the participatory events were analysed, providing a better understanding of SOSTs assessment by Europeans and reasons for accepting or rejecting specific measures and technologies. This led to 16 policy recommendations. Results were also used to develop a decision-support system to facilitate the involvement of citizens in decision making concerning security measures and technologies.

Thanks to SURPRISE, the voice of Europeans on surveillance, privacy and security has been heard. It will ultimately contribute to the development of security policies and measures that are consistent with human rights and European values.

last modification: 2016-02-25 11:05:08

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