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Date: February 26, 2008

New Research Aims To Uncover Social Effects Of Surveillance

Will video surveillance cameras outnumber television cameras at the 2010 Olympic Games?

Privacy implications of the 2010 Olympics will be one of several questions addressed through a new collaborative research project involving Colin Bennett, a University of Victoria political scientist and leading international privacy expert.

“Mega-events such as the Olympics put infrastructure into place, such as video surveillance, which tends to endure long after the event is complete. Among other things, this research initiative will look at the social consequences of monitoring human action and behaviour for issues such as privacy, civil liberties, discrimination and equity,” says Bennett.

UVic is one of five universities from Canada and the UK taking part in the $2.5-million project, which will examine the social consequences of new surveillance technologies. The project, called The New Transparency: Surveillance and Social Sorting, was announced today by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

In addition to researching the privacy implications of the 2010 Olympics, Bennett is one of two collaborators who will be responsible for coordinating research on cyber-surveillance.

“There are increasingly hidden and intrusive ways by which personal data can be captured when individuals send an email, browse websites, perform Google searches or participate in social networking sites such as Facebook,” says Bennett.

“New surveillance technologies are making individuals more transparent than they’ve ever been. Whether or not privacy invades on an individual level there are a range of deeper questions about whether or not we wish to live in a society where so much of our behaviour can be monitored,” says Bennett.

The research project is led by David Lyon at Queen’s University. Other universities involved with the project include the University of Toronto, the University of Alberta and the Open University in the UK. Researchers from a number of other countries, as well as collaborators from government and non-governmental organizations, are also participants.
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Media contacts:
Colin Bennett (Political Science) at (250) 721-7495 or cjb@uvic.ca
Suzanne Smith (Social Sciences Communications) at (250) 472-4496 or suzanne@uvic.ca

UVic media releases and other resources for journalists are available on the World Wide Web at http://communications.uvic.ca/media

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