Call for Papers: Special Issue - Questioning Modern Surveillance Technologies (DEADLINES EXTENDED)

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Guest edited by: Johann Čas, Researcher, Institute of Technology Assessment, Austrian Academy of Sciences, Paul De Hert, Professor of Law, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Maria Grazia Porcedda, Assistant Professor, School of Law at Trinity College Dublin, Charles D. Raab, Professorial Fellow, Politics and International Relations School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh

Ethical and Legal Challenges of Emerging Information and Communication Technologies


Security issues will always be high on the public policy agenda. Persisting security threats, like terrorism and public safety, are complemented by new concerns, such as the emergence of technological solutions to manage the threat posed by the Covid-19 pandemic or challenges to democratic processes posed by the use of social media. ICTs (Information and Communication Technologies) often appear to offer simple technologically based solutions to multidimensional problems relating to the safeguarding of societies, people and nations - an impression that is actively promoted by commercial interests who would like to see the ongoing procurement of security and surveillance technologies, and an option that is often welcomed by policy-makers who search for symbolic policies and tools that demonstrate their concern to adopt proactive measures against, crime, terrorism and radicalisation.

Emerging ICTs form a fundamental component of the new generation of security and surveillance technologies, in that they allow for the collection, analysis and interpretation of large quantities of data, in unprecedented and previously unforeseen ways. In the context of this Call for Papers, emergent ICTs relate to a wide range of technological tools and applications that are an amalgamation of enhanced capabilities to generate and process data, including by new sensory devices embedded in the Internet of Things (IoT) and rapid advances in data science that allow for the utilisation of artificial intelligence for enhanced biometrics, interpretation of emotions and predictive policing (etc.). 

The digitisation of everyday life is increasingly blurring the boundaries between the use of ICTs to provide services and their use for surveillance and security purposes. The enormous amounts of data generated, accompanied by enhanced analytical capability, create not only a desire to use data for commercial purposes, but also complimentary temptations to exploit them in the context of security. Revelations about mass surveillance programmes in a number of countries and the apparent lack of democratic oversight point to the overwhelming temptation to use data in this way, and arguably to the detriment of human rights, and personal and societal privacy.

This Special Issue of Information Polity is specifically interested in the ‘wicked issues’ associated with security, surveillance, data processes and service delivery. Delivering security in a digitised world is complex, it involves traditional and new security concerns, commercial interests, democratic and political control issues and multiple complex data flows, as well as new digital ethical issues around transparency, accountability, fairness and trust. The pervasiveness of ICTs and the dependence of modern societies on the uninterrupted availability of ICT infrastructures and services have made ICTs themselves a core security concern. This relates to the security of critical infrastructure and the market dominance of a few big commercial interests, which it is argued threatens the autonomy, liberty and privacy of individuals as well as the (digital) sovereignty of nations. 

New ICTs have become deeply engrained in all facets of society, including contemporary democratic and public-policy processes. The prevalence of core technological platforms and associated data processes create a reliance on key commercial interests and places them in a good position to benefit from insight arising from the analysis of data. Public policy is increasingly reliant on these platforms and data flows, suggesting a shift in power from political to commercial interests. ICTs can be seen to play a critical role in politics and public policy, for example as tools to influence elections through the distribution of ‘fake news’ or where governments seek to limit freedom of expression and information by automatic censorship. Moreover, the rise of populist governments and political instability weakens regulatory oversight and opens up spaces for the use of ICT in potentially ethically non-compliant ways.

Scope of the Special Issue

The Special Issue will explore ethical and legal challenges of existing and emerging ICTs used in the context of security, surveillance and cyber security. It will explore issues and gaps existing in current regulatory and policy measures designed to address the challenges associated with the promotion of digital technologies in society and the need to develop ethically compliant practices and data processes. Contributions are welcome that address the complex intertwined relations between security, ethics and human rights, the significance of commercial interests in democratic and policy processes, and assessments of innovative new policies or practices, including those that are technology dependent, and those which seek to support human rights, democratic values and societal development.

Potential questions to be addressed by articles in the Special Issue could include:

  • How do commercial interests around security and surveillance shape democracy, and political and public policy processes?  How is data commercialised in such settings?
  • Can the massive amounts of data generated by new ICTs, including social media, be used for security purposes in ethically acceptable and human rights compatible ways? What limitations need to be respected, and what regulatory and technical safeguards need to be established in order to avoid misuse?
  • In what ways are security practices mediated by ICTs also surveillance systems in the modern information polity?
  • How can the perceived trade-off between privacy/liberty and security be resolved, given that data privacy is an essential element of (cyber-)security and data protection is enshrined as a fundamental human right? Are there better, more nuanced ways of conceptualising the relationship between security and human rights such as privacy? 
  • How can ethical issues be incorporated into R&D on surveillance/security technologies? What regulations and guidelines are necessary for the ethically compliant development, implementation and use of surveillance technologies?
  • Can the development of ICTs incorporate safeguards to ensure that future deployments do not undermine civil and human rights?
  • How can existing regulatory frameworks be improved to better reflect ethical concerns caused by the ever-increasing capabilities of ICTs?
  • How can ICTs potential for supporting undemocratic political regimes or unethical commercial activity be prevented?
  • To what extent can opaque data processes associated with digitally mediated security and surveillance practices cause discriminatory outcomes and how can they be more transparent and accountable?


The following are the important dates in the publication process:

  • March 2021: Call for abstracts published
  • 17th May 2021: Deadline for submission of abstracts (extended from 26 April)
  • 24th May 2021: Notification for invitation to submit full manuscript (extended from 10 May)
  • 1st October 2021: Deadline for submission of full manuscripts
  • October-December 2021: Review process
  • 15th January 2021: Final decision on manuscripts to be accepted
  • April 2022: Publication of Special Issue in Information Polity

Author Instructions

Abstracts should initially be sent to Johann Čas (Johann.Cas@oeaw.ac.at) by the 17th of May 2021. Abstracts should be up to 750 words and include the names of all authors and their institutional affiliations.

Abstracts will be reviewed by the Guest Editors of the Special Issue. This review will focus on the fit with the special issue theme, feasibility and potential contribution to knowledge. The authors of accepted abstracts will be invited to submit full manuscripts. Full manuscripts will be double-blind peer reviewed. Please note that initial acceptance of an abstract does not guarantee acceptance and publication of the final manuscript.

Final manuscripts have to be submitted directly through IP’s submission system and needs to adhere to the journals submission guidelines:

Guest editors of the Special Issue

Johann Čas, Researcher, Institute of Technology Assessment, Austrian Academy of Sciences (corresponding guest editor: Johann.Cas@oeaw.ac.at)
Paul De Hert, Professor of Law, Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Maria Grazia Porcedda, Assistant Professor, School of Law at Trinity College Dublin
Charles D. Raab, Professorial Fellow, Politics and International Relations School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh

This special issue is edited by a group of researchers associated with the European Commission H2020 funded PANELFIT-project. PANELFIT stands for Participatory Approaches to a New Ethical and Legal Framework for ICT. The PANELFIT project has received funding under the European Union’s H2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 788039 (https://www.panelfit.eu/).