Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Policy Recommendations: Seminar 5

Tackling Transparency
Beyond the Nation-State
31 March 2016
 Cardiff University

This was the fifth of six seminars in the ESRC-funded DATA-PSST! seminar series.   

The aim of Seminar 5 was to focus on the ongoing attempts at the European and international level to regulate, confine and oversee the global flow of information. To do so, it brought together scholars and practitioners of international relations, political science, international law, human rights, media and journalism to examine key debates, analyse strengths and weaknesses of existing mechanisms of regulation and oversight and explore questions about which political level is best suited to such a demanding mandate. A full summary is here, but below are the key policy recommendations.

      Policy Recommendations
1.     We suggest greater transparency about data collection and processing, and about the effectiveness of policies based on such surveillance.
2.     We recommend a particular form of transparency – with opacity built in to protect necessary secrets, but with regular and periodical review of all stages of the data process by diverse actors drawn from citizenry, civil liberties groups, technologists, industry and of course intelligence agencies.
3.     For surveillance systems to work in a predictive capacity, they need and want people to behave freely, so that peoples’ real intentions can be discerned. The objective for those interested in maximizing civil liberties and those working in intelligence and security is that people behave in an unconstrained fashion (that is, without being subjected to any ‘chilling effect’). After all, the objective of bulk data collection is to discern unusual patterns against normalcy. We argue there is a danger of an ‘observer effect’ taking place.
4.     We suggest that the aims of any governmental or commercial surveillant organisation involved in data collection and processing are publicly articulated more fully and clearly. They should provide more detail than blanket terms such as ‘protecting national security’, and more meaningful clarity than complex Terms and Conditions and associated tick-boxes of consent and compliance.
5.     For these aims to be better understood within society we suggest the need for greater public engagement by surveillant entities with citizens. This would help generate challenges, dialogue and perhaps even consensus and greater trust.
6.     Technological change on what it is possible to capture, through data, continues apace: contemporary examples include application of artificial intelligence and machine learning, data analytics, biometric devices and emotion detection. Given rapid technological progress that outstrips common understanding of what it is possible to collect, and what it reveals about an individual, we need regular review of both the adequacy of regulation and public preparedness. In other words, as technology develops, do people and politicians understand what is really going on and how it will affect them on a personal, and societal level?

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