Automated surveillance

Authored by: Mark Andrejevic

Routledge Handbook of Digital Media and Communication

Print publication date:  November  2020
Online publication date:  November  2020

Print ISBN: 9781138672093
eBook ISBN: 9781315616551
Adobe ISBN:


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Surveillance no longer refers solely to the work of covert agencies and their spies or police and CCTV networks. In recent decades it has become a central component of the burgeoning online economy, as evidenced by the ready invocation in popular mainstream media of the so-called ‘surveillance economy.’ The Wall Street Journal, for example, ran a series of stories in 2012 about the growing range of digital surveillance technologies, ranging from automated license plate readers to online tracking, that it grouped under the rubric of the ‘surveillance economy’ (WSJ, Sept. 29, 2012). It is becoming increasingly clear that a large segment of the digital media economy is based on comprehensive and extensive forms of data collection about everyone and everything that can be measured. As the sociologist David Lyon has observed,

Surveillance … now occurs routinely, locally and globally as an unavoidable feature of everyday life in contemporary societies. Organizations of all kinds engage in surveillance and citizens, consumers, and employees generally comply with that surveillance (with some noteworthy exceptions).

(2003, 1)

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