Going beyond privacy: The social justice implications of surveillance culture

Name: Nayantara R

Organisation: Internet Democracy Project

Country: India

Stakeholder Group: Civil Society Organisations

Thematic Area: Privacy

Session Title: Going beyond privacy: The social justice implications of surveillance culture

Session Format: PANEL (60/90 MINS)

Co-organizers Name (if any):

Speakers Name: Saikat Datta, Srinivas Kodali, Dr. Reetika Khera, Dr. Anja Kovacs, Darshana Mitra, Swati Maliwal, Delhi Commission for Women

Speaker Status: Confirmed

Relevance of the issue with specified session theme: Themes: privacy, freedom of expression, digital literacy and empowerment.  Surveillance is now embedded deeply in our lives – and not just in the lives of those of us privileged enough to own phones and have access to the Internet. Even those who don’t own or operate digital technologies are now a subject of surveillance technologies, as evidenced by biometric national ID cards and CCTV cameras that might or might not work. For one thing, while privacy remains an important protection against the harms of surveillance, it cannot be the only one. As opaque algorithms sort people into neat boxes of reliable and unreliable, credit-worthy and not so much, depressed, suspicious, pious, deviant, and any number of categories or proxies for categories, what happens is often a reproduction of inequality. Surveillance is not merely a matter of privacy, but equally a social justice issue – yet that is a message that we still have to get across. Surveillance has an impact on freedom of expression as well, complicated by the fact that it is also hard to measure. The numbers for criminal activity caught on CCTV cameras cannot be measured against the cost of self-censored activities and behaviours, because how to measure what didn’t happen?

Content of the session (Objective of the session): Surveillance practices are often forwarded or normalised in the name of development, efficiency or convenience. Such practices are both deepening and expanding exponentially in the digital age. This throws up important high-level questions that need to be answered- Where the assumptions on which such practices are based remain opaque, when and how do they reproduce or even deepen inequality? In their combined effect, how do these practices restructure democratic societies? And if surveillance is not merely a matter of privacy, what other checks and balances need to be in place if we want to strengthen equality and democracy in the digital age? As an inward-looking inquiry, we will also discuss the challenges faced in studying and advocating against surveillant futures- How to measure the impact that policing of norms and behaviours brings about?  How to quantify failures of such systems as prominently as the the successes are canvassed? How to integrate messages about surveillance within formal digital literacy modules and in the media more generally?

What is USP of the session: The panel would problematise surveillance from the lens of more than one theme of the summit- privacy, freedom of expression, digital literacy and empowerment. We would also look at different challenges and pathways to help move forward advocacy in a concrete way.

Please describe how you will use your speakers and how their views/ perspectives /expertise will be included in the session: The proposed list of speakers are: Saikat Datta, Srinivas Kodali, Dr. Reetika Khera, Dr. Anja Kovacs, Darshana Mitra. As the session is a panel discussion, each speaker will be given time for opening remarks and response to other panelists. There will also be several rounds of comments and questions   from the audience. We are looking for a moderator who will ensure that the panel will be a very interactive one.

How are you bringing diversity in your proposed session whether it is relevant to the specified theme? The panel includes persons from academia, a technologist, a lawyer as well as an expert on national security, representing a variety of expertise. The panel has 3 women and 2 men. We will be reaching out to more people to ensure there is a good representation of voices.

Relevant Tags (Minimum 3 tags) #socialjustice, #surveillance, #power