On SAGE Insight: Towards data justice? The ambiguity of anti-surveillance resistance in political activism

From Big Data & Society

The Snowden leaks provided substantial evidence for the extensive nature of surveillance rooted in the mass collection of digitally enabled data (or Big Data) and illustrated the intricate relationship between the infrastructures of our everyday technologies and emerging forms of governance and control. Pertinent debate, activity and advocacy has flourished in response to the Snowden leaks, opening up opportunities for many existing technology- and digital rights-concerned communities to mobilise, expand and influence political processes and social attitudes. By introducing the notion of ‘data justice’ in this article authors want to contribute to the shift and broadening of understanding of the role of data-driven surveillance in contemporary society. Introducing the notion of ‘data justice’, the paper goes on to make the case that resistance to surveillance needs to be (re)conceptualized on terms that can address the implications of this data-driven form of governance in relation to broader social justice agendas. It suggests, in light of a shift to surveillance capitalism in which the collection, use and analysis of our data increasingly comes to shape the opportunities and possibilities available to us and the kind of society we live in.

Abstract

The Snowden leaks, first published in June 2013, provided unprecedented insights into the operations of state-corporate surveillance, highlighting the extent to which everyday communication is integrated into an extensive regime of control that relies on the ‘datafication’ of social life. Whilst such data-driven forms of governance have significant implications for citizenship and society, resistance to surveillance in the wake of the Snowden leaks has predominantly centred on techno-legal responses relating to the development and use of encryption and policy advocacy around privacy and data protection. Based on in-depth interviews with a range of social justice activists, we argue that there is a significant level of ambiguity around this kind of anti-surveillance resistance in relation to broader activist practices, and critical responses to the Snowden leaks have been confined within particular expert communities. Introducing the notion of ‘data justice’, we therefore go on to make the case that resistance to surveillance needs to be (re)conceptualized on terms that can address the implications of this data-driven form of governance in relation to broader social justice agendas. Such an approach is needed, we suggest, in light of a shift to surveillance capitalism in which the collection, use and analysis of our data increasingly comes to shape the opportunities and possibilities available to us and the kind of society we live in.

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Article details
Towards data justice? The ambiguity of anti-surveillance resistance in political activism
Lina Dencik, Arne Hintz, Jonathan Cable
First Published November 1, 2016
Big Data & Society
DOI: 10.1177/2053951716679678

     
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