Cyber Surveillance – Research Project Update

Continuing on from my previous post which you can read here, this post will help further outline my research project about cyber surveillance, take a closer look into research on the topic that I plan to use in the final assignment and discuss the course I will take going forward after conducting all of this research. Finally, I will discuss my in class presentation that I will be doing in the week 12 seminar.

Report Update
Since my last blog post news broke about the Cambridge Analytica scandalinvolving Facebook and as many as 87 million users Facebook data improperly obtained and used. Because of this, since my first blog post, the only changes I have decided to make that are different from my original research proposal is to use this scandal as one point of what happens because of cyber surveillance and also what businesses and the government do with the information they obtain.

Since Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified to congress a new Privacy Bill of Rights called ‘The CONSENT Act’– consent short for Customer Online Notification for Stopping Edge-provider Network Transgressions – was introduced by two US senators which will place significant constraints on data collection by Facebook and other online services. The bill requires explicit opt-in consent from users to use, share, or sell any personal information, as well as clear notification any time data is collected shared or used. If passed, the creation of this bill would result in less surveillance by social media sites, the government and businesses who use user data to target advertisements. The possibility of this bill would be a large positive for those who think cyber surveillance takes away their privacy and freedom of speech on social media.

A journal article I plan to use for my research project from The Center for International Media Assistance titled Watchdogs Under Watch: Media in the age of Cyber Surveillance discusses the spread of cyber surveillance. In particular it discusses government monitoring. As the tools for tracking digital communications become more sophisticated, the consequences for citizens’ privacy and freedom of expression become more critical. The journal article states that “in late 2014 more and more people were being detained and prosecuted for their digital activities in the past year than ever before”(Podesta 2015). In countries such as Iran and China governments monitoring their citizens’ activities on the internet is well known, they may defend their intentions as necessary to combat terrorism and crime and maintain social order, but such surveillance is also aimed at keeping themselves in power. The journal article not only discusses the surveillance of these countries but also a number of other countries as well including the United Kingdom and the United States. This article will help with my research when discussing why the government does this kind of surveillance on countries and what they do with the information they obtain.

Another article I plan on using for my research report talks about the positives of law enforcement monitoring social media – titled Social Media Surveillance and Law Enforcement by the Data and Civil Rights: A New Era of Policing and Justice – and using it as an intelligence gathering tool. In 2014, more than 1200 federal, state and local law enforcement professionals found that approximately 80% used social media platforms for intelligence gathering. It is no surprise that using social media has become a more prominent way to gather information by law enforcement given their low cost compared to other forms of surveillance. The use of social media for intelligence gathering has many successes. According to the article this kind of information gathering has helped law enforcement solve murder cased where perpetrators boast about their crimes online, detect potential human trafficking activity, as well as more mundane crimes such as car thefts. The article also looks into how law enforcement uses social media such as searches on sites, creating profiles to interact with targets of interest and sifting through public profiles.

These sources are just a few of what I will be using in my final research report. Slowly I am making a rough outline of the structure of my report and over the coming weeks before the final report is due will add to it more and more till it is complete and ready for submission. In the meantime, any feedback or comments would be greatly appreciated!!

References:

Brandom, R 2018, “After Facebook hearing, Senators roll out new bill restraining online data use”, The Verge, viewed April 12, <https://www.theverge.com/2018/4/10/17221046/facebook-data-consent-act-privacy-bill-markey-blumenthal>

Mateescu, A, Brunton, D, Rosenblat, A, Patton, D, Gold, Z, Boyd, D, 2015, ‘Social Media Surveillance and Law Enforcement’, Data & Civil Rights: A New Era of Policing and Justice, viewed April 12, <http://www.datacivilrights.org/pubs/2015-1027/Social_Media_Surveillance_and_Law_Enforcement.pdf>

Podesta, D 2015, ‘Watchdogs Under Watch: Media in the Age of Cyber Surveillance’, Centre for International Media Assistance, viewed April 12,<https://www.rnw.org/sites/flagship.rnw.org/files/cima_cyber_surveillance_paper_web.pdf>

US Senate, 2018, ‘As Facebook CEO Zuckerberg Testifies to Congress, Senators Markey and Blumenthal Introduce Privacy Bill of Rights’ Ed Markey United States Senator for Massachusetts, viewed April 12, <https://www.markey.senate.gov/news/press-releases/as-facebook-ceo-zuckerberg-testifies-to-congress-senators-markey-and-blumenthal-introduce-privacy-bill-of-rights>

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