Social impacts of transport surveillance

Marcus Wigan, Roger Clarke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


The transport sector is a natural focal point for surveillance measures to combat the threat of terrorism. It is also a complex environment that offers many examples of the social impacts of contemporary surveillance. Surveillance needs to be assessed against the standards used to justify other forms of security measures. The efficacy of many surveillance schemes, however, is in serious doubt. Justification for these schemes is commonly either lacking entirely or is unpublished and hence has not been subjected to critical evaluation. A small set of mini-cases is presented, in order to identify the social impacts of twenty-first century surveillance schemes that have been implemented as fear-driven responses to terrorist acts. Those impacts are argued to be seriously harmful to society. Trust is crucial to public acceptance of intrusive measures, but the absence of justification for surveillance, and of controls over abuses, is likely to see the rapid dissipation of trust, firstly in the assertions of national security and law enforcement agencies, and secondly in the politicians who have been rubber-stamping their demands.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)389-403
Number of pages15
JournalPrometheus: Critical Studies in Innovation
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2006


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