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The politics of surveillance policy: UK regulatory dynamics after Snowden

Hintz, Arne ORCID: and Dencik, Lina ORCID: 2016. The politics of surveillance policy: UK regulatory dynamics after Snowden. Internet Policy Review 5 (3) , pp. 1-16. 10.14763/2016.3.424

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The revelations by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden have illustrated the scale and extent of digital surveillance carried out by different security and intelligence agencies. The publications have led to a variety of concerns, public debate, and some diplomatic fallout regarding the legality of the surveillance, the extent of state interference in civic life, and the protection of civil rights in the context of security. Debates about the policy environment of surveillance emerged quickly after the leaks began, but actual policy change is only starting. In the UK, a draft law (Investigatory Powers Bill) has been proposed and is currently discussed. In this paper, we will trace the forces and dynamics that have shaped this particular policy response. Addressing surveillance policy as a site of struggle between different social forces and drawing on different fields across communication policy research, we suggest eight dynamics that, often in conflicting ways, have shaped the regulatory framework of surveillance policy in the UK since the Snowden leaks. These include the governmental context; national and international norms; court rulings; civil society advocacy; technical standards; private sector interventions; media coverage; and public opinion. We investigate how state surveillance has been met with criticism by parts of the technology industry and civil society, and that policy change was required as a result of legal challenges, review commissions and normative interventions. However a combination of specific government compositions, the strong role of security agendas and discourses, media justification and a muted reaction by the public have hindered a more fundamental review of surveillance practices so far and have moved policy debate towards the expansion, rather than the restriction, of surveillance in the aftermath of Snowden.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Journalism, Media and Culture
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
J Political Science > JF Political institutions (General)
Publisher: Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society
ISSN: 2197-6775
Funders: Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 26 September 2016
Date of Acceptance: 13 May 2016
Last Modified: 03 May 2023 10:08

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