Opinions of Surveillance in the Pre-Snowden Era: A Three-Country Comparative Analysis

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Lockrey, William
Surveillance , Public Opinion , Neoliberalism , Snowden
The field of surveillance studies as a whole is sorely lacking empirical data. This thesis includes and analyzes data of public opinions of surveillance across the United States of America, Canada, and the United Kingdom. This thesis uses multiple statistical models at the univariate, bivariate and multivariate levels. Ultimately, a country-stratified complementary log-log regression is used analyze the 2012 Globalization of Personal Data (GPD) follow-up dataset. The findings of this thesis show that the majority of respondents in all three countries find surveillance to be highly intrusive. There is also a positive correlation between the knowledge of surveillance technologies and feelings of intrusion – that is, typically, the more knowledgeable one is about surveillance, the more intrusive they find surveillance. There also appear to be stronger feelings of intrusiveness of surveillance in the United Kingdom in comparison to the United States and Canada. Also, respondent’s form the United Kingdom who believe that community CCTV is not very, or not at all effective show the highest single-variable influence on the feelings of intrusiveness than those who believe it is ‘very effective’ while controlling for all variables. Therefore, the concluding results of this analysis show that the pre-Snowden era of public opinion in regards to surveillance is already highly negative – yet new and old technologies continue to spread ubiquitously. Thus, it is apparent that in Western liberal democracies public support for surveillance is desired, but not required. Public support of surveillance technologies greatly reduces barriers for the spread of technologies, but surveillance technologies can, and do spread without public knowledge or support through a myriad of ways. This thesis provides a strong snapshot of public opinion data that can be used as a ‘benchmark’ for future analyses that seek to measure the impacts of the Snowden revelations and other momentous surveillance events.
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