• Jacobe Orry Rindom
  • Victoria Supangkasaen Carlsson
4. term, Communication, Master (Master Programme)
During recent years, the debate about surveillance and data monitoring has increased significantly as a result of greater automatization and digitalization. The debate has received particular attention after the 9/11 attacks and the Snowden Leaks, which is a result of an increased focus on using data to predict and thus pre-empt crime and threats through artificial intelligence and algorithms. This is one of the main reasons why surveillance as a phenomenon has become more interesting than ever before. But are we aware of the extent to which we are surveilled in our daily lives? Data monitoring is not limited to predicting and pre-empting crime. In particular, it is seen how states and commercial companies use data on citizens and customers to predict future behavior or optimize business practices.

The main focus of this master thesis is to write a conceptual and theoretical delineation of the problems surrounding surveillance arising as a result of digitalization and media development. To support the theoretical considerations, this thesis will elaborate how surveillance is articulated and debated in the Danish media. Furthermore, an elaboration of the ethical issues relating discrimination and stigmatization as well as a restriction of privacy as a result of surveillance follows.

To examine this, we have constructed four theoretical chapters. The first chapter is a literature review, which seeks to elaborate the existing research. The second chapter contains a historical dimension that elucidates the fact that surveillance is not a new phenomenon. To elaborate the historical perspective, Michel Foucault’s theories of disciplinary power and panopticon are used. The third chapter contains a contemporary and technological dimension which presents Shoshana Zuboff’s theory of surveillance capitalism in relation to other contemporary perspectives on Big Data and monitoring. The fourth chapter has a policy-oriented and citizen-centered dimension, which seeks to investigate ethical issues such as freedom and privacy in liberal democracies.

The methodological foundation of this thesis consists of a qualitative multicase study. The first case concerns the use of customer data by insurance companies. The second focuses on the app Smittestop, which was launched to detect chains of infection concerning the Covid-19 pandemic. This is done to illuminate that the theoretical considerations also have practical implications and actually takes place in the real world. The empirical data consists of a series of news articles from the Danish media, which will be analyzed through a discourse analysis based on Norman Fairclough’s three-dimensional framework. In addition, elements from Laclau and Mouffes discourse theory are used. The discourse analysis will contribute to an understanding of how the use of data and thus surveillance is articulated and debated.

The findings illustrate that the problems regarding surveillance are not just a theoretical or hypothetical matter found in the literature. The issues actually can be put in relation to a Danish context in 2021. The thesis thus demonstrates the importance of the interplay between theory and reality. We use two cases to illustrate real-life problems that citizens encounter in their everyday lives, and that the problem arises the moment surveillance becomes ubiquitous and limiting for citizens. In media coverage, the most prominent discourses are the fear of totalitarian societies, a liberal discourse and a welfare discourse. All three discourses have a citizen-oriented rhetoric where the protection of the citizen’s rights, including freedom and privacy, is essential. There is a demand for transparency, accountability and proportionality in order to be able to meet the ethical issues that the surveillance contains. Overall, we can conclude that issues concerning surveillance are real in a Danish context, even though citizens in many ways are protected by democratic rights and GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation). Although surveillance is probably an essential part of the welfare society, it is important that citizens are protected from abuse of power.
Publication date4 Jun 2021
Number of pages111
ID: 413699554