David Lyon Q and A
Duration: 00:12:57; Aspect Ratio: 1.333:1; Hue: 7.815; Saturation: 0.044; Lightness: 0.137; Volume: 0.081; Cuts per Minute: 0.077; Words per Minute: 127.014
Summary: Question and Answer sessions with David Lyon about surveillance, information etcetera.
The too much, too little information question.
The.. there is a lot of slippage there, I have a number of comments that I could make about the too much, too little information question. I think one of the issues has to do with whether the.. whether the information is really adequate for the purposes that it is supposedly there to.. there to achieve. Yeah, there are just so many issues around that too much, too little information question. I.. I think actually the.. the answer will come out a little bit more in relation to a couple of my other answers. Let me just move along..
World Information City
I think you'll hear the answer to that in other ways. Second had to do with the ubiquity of surveillance and how we organize contemporary life. I.. I tried to acknowledge this as I was going along, surveillance is a product in part of the ways in which we have created information infrastructures in order to organize productivity, ineff.. efficiency, security, safety.. all those kinds of things.
Ubiquity of surveillance
Can I imagine a society without surveillance? No I can't, I can't imagine a society without surveillance of any kind, nor can I in the 21st century, imagine a society without forms of electronic surveillance simply because this is the way that we have built things, this is the way that we make things work in the 21st century. So, I don't imagine a society without surveillance. But then the.. the next question in relation to that is really important: is there good surveillance? I said that there is no sense in which surveillance is automatically malign, or socially negative. But it's never neutral either; it's always ambiguous. And yes I do believe that there are ways in which we can determine what sorts of surveillance are going on here. Obviously it needs a.. an ethical and normative critique to consider what forms of surveillance either unmediated technologically, not unmediated they're always mediated in someway, but not mediated technologically or mediated technologically, there may be kinds of surveillance that relate to.. 'care' was the word that was used. I.. I certainly think that 'care' is a really important component. It may be related to a more contentious area, that of entitlement, I.. in.. when Schroeder was speaking yesterday he alluded to the notion of all being entitled to certain kinds of rights without the need to present some entitlement card. However, I think there are certain instances in which fairness is better achieved by the listing, and today that would have to be database listing, of eligible persons to ensure that all who are eligible for certain kinds of benefits or access or whatever it is actually obtain the access that they're entitled to. I think it can be used in ways that are caring, protective, guaranteeing of rights and entitlement, just as it may be used for the opposite. And, of course, if we were to discuss those then we'd have to look at specific contexts in which these systems are being developed.
David Lyon can't imagine a world without surveillance, but doesn't think it's automatically socially negative, and some systems can be protective and caring, but that depends on the context of development of these systems.
David Lyon on CRM techniques and elections. Believes, given the success in other areas, it will be used in the context of democratic elections in the future. But public involvement is needed to get rid of the opacity of codes to the general public
Question of democratic elections being the last hope for some kind of liberal and progressive future and whether these are actually being themselves undermined by the use of customer relation management type techniques, data-mining and so on. There.. the.. the evidence on this is still pretty ambiguous, as far as I understand it. The Aristotle database system in the United States has been used as a means of trying to very specifically target voters. What is not clear is how far the systems have worked for elections that have already happened, and.. and therefore by the same token we don't know yet how much they're going to be significant in the future. However, one suspects that given the relative success of CRM techniques and data-mining in some areas, the likelihood of them being used in the context of democratic elections is very strong indeed. And, it simply lends weight to the arguments that I was trying to make about ways of restricting the potential negative power of such classificatory systems. It seems to me that because these are algorithmically coded software systems that produce the outcomes that I was describing, it's at that level that they have to be considered, at that le.. level they have to be exposed, and it's at that level that we have to consider the de.. democratic process is most crucially involved. It seems to me that they're both opaque to end-users, both because they are invisible and also because they are based on software that is itself for technical reasons opaque to most ordinary people. And so, it's doubly so, and therefore more than doubly the case that the ways in which coding is done ought to be part of the process of.. ought to be subject to a process of ethical scrutiny and democratic participation. The categories it seems to me are absolutely crucial in the political election area, as in the commercial sphere, as in law enforcement, as in security, intelligence and so on. It seems to me that raising the question of the codes to a public level of discussion and involvement is crucial.
Data-mining and the failure to forgive and forget. Yeah, I would welcome debate with lawyers and those who.. those who understand the qualitative changes I think that are coming in the wake of the use of searchable databases. Yes, it does seem to me that new kinds of crimes are generated simply by the use of geo-de.. geo-demographic methods and.. and searchable databases. There are basic aspects of legal practice, not only the failure to forgive and forget that occurs within databases whose storage capacity is always growing, but think presumption of innocence. The very notion of a categorical suspicion assumes that everyone within that categorical niche is already in some ways tainted, and therefore the presumption of innocence is already undermined.
David Lyon believes data-mining and searchable databases, apart from the failure to forgive and forget, also undermines the basic notion of presumption of innocence.
David Lyon talks about experiments with facial recognition surveillance technology, and believes the most important testing ground are the Olympic games.
Experiments, you ask about experiments in relation to facial recognition. Well yes, there have been.. I think a number of occasions where security equipment has been teste d and yes, they are in apparen.. apparently in innocent kinds of environments, there was a famous test two or three years ago when people going.. entering the Superbowl, in Florida, were subject to close-circuit television with face recognition algorithms built into them, and the point of that was that as they went through the turnstiles, they were in a very neat face-on position for the top.. topography of the human face to be caught within the system, so it could be tested with thousands of people. In the case.. I can't remember how many thousand, but let's say, I'm.. I'm sure it was between an eighty and a hundred thousand people who went through the turnstiles in that particular experiment, and what they got out of it was 19 suspects of some very, very petty cases of fraud and theft. But the.. the key testing ground I think is the Olympic Games. The Olympic Games are prime sites for testing new security equipment, and we saw it at the Summer Olympics in Athens in 2004. If you're looking for the key testing ground for surveillance technologies, then look at the Olympics. That seems to me is where the most important experiments take place.
David Lyon addressed whether old hierarchies of power augment themselves with new technologies, and feels that, regarding data collection, it's the category and not the character that is important.
The last question had to do with whether.. this is what I've been describing as just old hierarchies of power now augmenting themselves with new technologies. I actually think that.. th.. there are aspects of that, no doubt about it, but I do think it's important for us, especially in a context like this when we're trying to look at the ways in which the digital is imprecated with the messy urban spaces that we've been discussing. To think about ways in which actually subtle changes are occurring and that it's not merely the reproduction of old hierarchies of power in digital contexts. The data that.. are.. are being used may seem somewhat trivial, shopping preferences for example, but when they're combined with others in a strategic ways, do help to build profiles. Ok, they're still very partial profiles for specific purposes, but they are very powerful ones at the same time. And, those profiles suggest.. th.. they don't build up an autobiographical kind of.. or biographical kind of profile, but they do raise questions about the.. the sort of person that is here. It is the category rather than the character which is all important. In most cases the data are collected whether or not we agree to the collection process. And, so now, many agencies garner our data and.. and it is simply impossible for us to keep track, the notion of informational self-determination which sometimes protection and privacy people come up with seems to be quite irrelevant to the kinds of processes that I have been describing, and that's also why I want to take the emphasis away from 'Oh, well, how can we protect ourselves in this environment?' to 'How can we demand accountability from those who process the data?'. It seems to me to be a question of justice and.. justice and fairness, or fairness and justice, rather than a question of.. of individualized protection against some unknown system. So, it does seem to me that this goes far beyond a.. a mere reinforcing of already existing power relations. It allows for new kinds of coalitions, for example between public and private policing, but also between insurance, and increasingly insurance categories are used by the police in order to determine where to locate their resources. So, increasingly there are new coalitions that are permitted, that are enabled, that are facilitated by the searchable databases and the networks that connect them. So, I think it's important to look at the ways in which old hierarchies are reinforced but I think it's also really important to look at the interaction.. interactions that produce new kinds of power in the 21st century.