Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

School of Law

Annual CCJS lecture presented by Professor David Lyon

9 February 2016 |

The Centre for Criminal Justice Studies (CCJS) annual lecture was held on the 2nd of February, and was presented by Professor David Lyon on the topic of Big Data Surveillance: Snowden, Everyday Practices and the Digital Future. The lecture was attended by  100 people – including academics, visitors and students. The evening was informative, thought provoking and a huge success.

Professor Lyon started his academic career in Bradfield, Yorkshire with a social science and history background (BSc Soc Sci, PhD) and is a Professor of both Sociology and Law. Professor Lyon is now based in Canada at Queen’s University, is the Director of the Surveillance Studies Centre and has also been a visiting Professor in a number of countries. Alongside these achievements he was the Principal Investigator of The New Transparency from 2008-2015 and held a Killam Research Fellowship 2008-2010 for work on the globalization of ID systems.

After being introduced by Professor Louise Ellison, director of CCJS, Professor Lyon began his talk by humbly insisting the awards were all a team effort.

The talk addressed many aspects of surveillance studies. Lyon commented that surveillance has evolved over time with it once being centered on monitoring for specific purposes today it is about the continuous tracking of “data crumbs” for unstated purposes – what he calls ‘dataveillance’. He comments that as part of that ‘personcentric’ information – our social relationships, online and phone activity are now tracked everyday.

Lyon’s also highlighted how people find it hard to comment on Big Data because it’s still so new and largely not understood. However, due to the constant monitoring, Big Data does call into question huge issues for democracies due to the growing ambiguity around what counts as ‘personal data’. Things that traditionally might not be perceived to be ‘personal’ – such as your IP address – are now explicitly representative of you. So what does that mean for your democratic rights?

Interestingly, Lyon’s commented on how securitization has become the main driver behind surveillance. One can recognise just how true this is when travelling on the London underground, trains or taking a flight. But the use of the data collected in this context is now being focused far more on predicting and pre-empting particular ‘behaviours’.  

He ended by commenting on the importance of people like Edward Snowden – a ‘parrhesia’ (truth-telling) - demonstrating the impact just one person can have by taking risks and following what they believe to be right.

Professor Lyon’s most current book, Surveillance after Snowden (2015), can be found using the link below:

http://www.polity.co.uk/book.asp?ref=9780745690841

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