Surveillance As Social Sorting: Privacy, Risk and Automated Discrimination

Surveillance As Social Sorting: Privacy, Risk and Automated Discrimination, edited by David Lyon, Taylor & Francis Group, 2002. ProQuest Ebook Central,

Surveillance As Social Sorting: Computer Codes and Mobile Bodies by David Lyon

By surveillance as social sorting, Lyon refers to the organizing of social and economic categories and computer codes for the purpose of influencing and controlling populations. Social sorting focuses on the social rather than the individual. He posits the difference about modern surveillance compared to the past is the ability for data to be sorted at a distance, and that such databasing systems were built due to the desire for better surveillance technologies. Improved speed and rich sources of personal information are believed to be the best way of monitoring and controlling population behaviors and anticipate risks ("actuarial justice" focused on predicting and mitigating crime before it happens). How domains are mapped - whether for marketing, services, or policing - is shaped by these data predictions. Data doubles, data respresentations of individuals, move about different databases and can be transformed, altered, merged, and erased. Rather than technologies with social impacts, Lyon proposes they are technologies actively sought and developed due to political-economic pressures, particularly neo-conservative governments. The notion of surveillance as curtailing risks hides the reality that surveillance contributes to risk itself.

He highlights three "stages" where sociological attention should be focused on surveillance: (1) the creation of codes by data-users, because it reveals the political economy behind the technology and its implications (by codes, Lyon means classifications and categories within a system (e.g., race)); (2) the extant to which the surveilled comply; and (3) what actions can be taken to oppose surveillance. Lyon discusses how different stakeholders shape computer "codes" in surveillance systems, often in unexpected ways (e.g., insurance companies shaping policing categories). Some French theorists have proposed that modern surveillance extends beyond Foucault's "normalizing" practices to Deluze's "society of control," where similarity and differene are reduced to code. "Virilio refers to this kind of surveillance 'prospection' because the codes promise advance vision, perceiving future events" (pg. 24). Thus, we become "coded bodies," where our physical movements may be granted or restricted based on prior determinations.

Theorizing Surveillance: The Case of the Workplace by Elia Zureik

Grint and Woolgar suggest an anti-essentialist approach to technology that draws on hermeneutics where the researcher views technology as a "text" to conduct discourse analysis. Hutchby, while open to interpreting the "reading" and "writing" of technology, feels the anti-essentialist approach also ignores the materiality of the system (“a bullet fired from a gun has effects on flesh and bone that are intrinsic to the gun and bullet and cannot be altered by social construction” (pg. 33)). He proposes the concept of "affordances" for interpreting "the possibilities for action [the technology] offers" (pg. 34). When studying surveillance technology, one should also consider the macro social institutions beyond the micro context of the technology. A critical realist perspective embraces the idea that the actors within a context may be unaware of the larger systems at play (like Marx's "hidden abode").

Zuriek reviews Foucault's concept of the surveillance panopticon and normalization, where surveillance extends beyond the direct gaze and actions of the surveiller, and the surveilled begins to enact their own self-surveillance. Foucault's other concept, plague management, points to categorizing heterogenous populations. However, these concepts are not enough to capture modern surveillance, a surveillance assemblage. "At the center of surveillance are attempts to capture the human body. This technology makes it possible to keep track of the body movement across various spaces and at differing temporal paces. This “decorporealization” of the body, through its reconfiguration into binary digits (bits) of information and its hybridity with machines, the so-called cyborg, renders the human body accessible 'beyond our normal range of perception'" (pg. 40). Surveillance technologies also enable reverse-surveillance, where marginalized populations can employ or co-opt surveillance power to resist. Surveillance is thus "rhizomatic," in that it now has hierarchies of observation that can be transformed. Therefore modern survillance is not a panopticon but a synopticon.

Zuriek writes of the key features of surveillance:

"What emerges from this overview is that surveillance is (1) an ubiquitous feature of human societies, and is found in both the political (public) and civil (private) sphere of society; (2) associated with governance and management; (3) endemic to large-scale organizations; (4) constitutive of the subject and has a corporeal aspect to it; (5) disabling as well as enabling and is “productive” in Foucault’s sense; (6) understood in terms of distanciation, i.e., the control of space and time; (7) becoming increasingly implicated in a system of assemblage which brings together diverse control technologies; and (8) rhizomatic, as evident in the ability of convergent technologies to capture and assemble inordinate amounts of information about people from various sources" (pg. 42).

Biometrics and the Body as Information: Normative Issues of the Socio-Technical Coding of the Body by Irma van der Ploeg

This chapter adresses the dichotomy often presented between information and materiality, specifically focusing on the dichotomy between the embodied identity and information about embodied individuals. She questions the supposed difference between the body and information about and digital representations of the body. "Body data" is increasingly collected in every domain, from policing to travel to healthcare. Body ontology is being restructured into flows of information She argues that this collection of body data should not be treated as another type of personal information, but considered on the level of ontology (rather than representation). She examines how such practices could actually change how we experience embodiment - how we use our bodies and experience space and time.

She points out the concern for misuse results in drawing lines between legitimate use and misuse, and the consequential discursive exercises reveal how these values do not necessarily align with new forms of body digitization. Privacy concerns, tied to concerns over personally identifying information, are called informational privacy - concern over the control of one's individual data. But van der Ploeg feels bodily integrity is a value at stake that has been underconsidered. "Far less stringent criteria apply to what counts as a legitimate violation of privacy, compared to what is needed to justify a breach of bodily integrity" (pg. 67). Yet laws and norms around bodily integrity seem to vary in ways that blur the boundaries of what is inside/part of the body and what is not (e.g., frisking being considered "on" the body, cavity searches "in" the body, x-rays legally invasive to bodily integrity even compared to cavity searches). "There is no clear point where bodily matter first becomes information" (pg. 70). So how can we conceptualize examinations or predictions based on the body-as-information, a virtual body?

"To say that the use of body data merely involves the data or the information, and not the body, or the embodied person denies the constitutive and enduring relation between the data and my identity as embodied person" (pg. 70). Given some legal boundaries about bodily integrity exist not just to protect from invasive physical breaches but are based on how that information may be used (e.g., DNA swabbing is invasive because of its potential future uses), it is relevant to interrogate the use of body-as-information in a digital context.

Electronic Identity Cards and Social Classification by Felix Stalder and David Lyon

Establishing stable identities for citizens is crucial to governmentality; accurate, yet flexible, classifications are desired to determine the application of administrative policies for each individual. Incentives for what data is most useful are contextual to political interests at the time (e.g., establishing national IDs over a rising concern about "terrorism"). When privacy concerns are raised over new forms of state identification, it is usefully justified by pointing out the necessity of sacrificing privacy for security. Identification documents are becoming increasingly digitized as well. THe objective of any identity system is its reliability and inability to be falsified.

The authors point out that the quest for ID cards is often justified through proposing their utility to handling some threat. To do this, a detailed image of what that threat is must also be constructed. However, digital ID cards themselves present their own risks. False positives and negatives present a risk, as well as the vulnerability of databases themselves.

Private Security and Surveillance: From the 'Dossier Society' to Database Networks by Greg Marquis

This chapter focuses on policing and its relationship to private security practices. Marquis argues that both public policing and private security evolved due to ordering space and categorizing individuals. Further, it has developed as a result of private market politics and concerns over property, profit, and liability.

From Personal to Digital: CCTV, the Panopticon, and the Technological Mediation of Suspicion and Social Control by Clive Norris

Norris proposes that the network of CCTV cameras and private security guards is a modern realization of Bentham's Panopticon. Because it is impossible to know who or when someone is watching on CCTV, it presents a normalizing surveillance like Foucault posited. Norris states that it is not solely the visual power of the Panopticon, but also a social one of coercion. "We can see that power is being exercised through much more than observation; it also involves the individualization of pathology through bureaucratic codification, decision-making based on the power of classificatory categories" (pg. 250). Foucault proposed social control was maintained through the power of exclusion and inclusion. "It is exclusionary in that it segregates the deviant from the wider community, but inclusionary because segregation is aimed not merely at warehousing deviants but transforming them into “docile bodies” to be returned to the fold" (pg. 251).