The intensification of surveillance

Ball, K. and Webster, F. (2003). The intensification of surveillance. In: Ball, K. and Webster, F. eds. The Intensification of Surveillance: crime, terrorism and warfare in the information era. London: Pluto Press, pp. 1–15.



Surveillance involves the observation, recording and categorization of information about people, processes and institutions. It calls for the collection of information, its storage, examination and – as a rule – its transmission. It is a distinguishing feature of
modernity, though until the 1980s the centrality of surveillance to the making of our world had been underestimated in social analysis. Over the years surveillance has become increasingly systematic and embedded in everyday life, particularly as state
(and, latterly, supra-state) agencies and corporations have
strengthened and consolidated their positions. More and more we are surveilled in quite routine activities, as we make telephone calls, pay by debit card, walk into a store and into the path of security cameras, or enter a library through electronic turnstiles. It is important that this routine character of much surveillance is registered, since commentators so often focus exclusively on the dramatic manifestations of surveillance such as communications interceptions and spy satellites in pursuit of putative and deadly enemies. In recent decades, aided by innovations in information and communications technologies (ICTs), surveillance has expanded
and deepened its reach enormously.

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