< AI for Humanity and Society 2023 Workshops

WASP-HS Workshop in conjunction with the conference AI for Humanity and Society 2023

The ‘Surveillant Assemblage’ In the Age of AI

It has now been over 20 years since Haggerty and Ericsson’s (2000) seminal work on surveillant assemblages was published where they departed from the argument that two metaphors ‘Big Brother’ (Orwell, 1949) and ‘Panopticon’ (Foucault, 1977) had dominated the discussion of the contemporary developments in surveillance at the time. In this workshop, we will critically reflect on how the surveillant assemblage can be understood in our contemporary society and what dominates the current societal debate. Developments in digitalization and artificial intelligence (AI) are laying the ground for surveillance capabilities of a magnitude we have never seen before, extending the intensity and scope of surveillance, to become more powerful, ubiquitous, and embedded in our daily lives. It should be emphasized that the emerging digital surveillance technologies should not be understood as individual tools related to certain practices, but rather a convergence of earlier discrete surveillance technologies into a surveillant assemblage. The introduction of surveillance provides high expectation of increased efficiency and security in society, while generating a set of tensions and dilemmas related to policy-making and regulation to protect fundamental democratic values and rights such as privacy. The development of the powerful surveillant assemblage relates to an interplay of different factors such as:

  • A rapid, technical development of surveillance devices that collect information on citizens, e.g., stationary surveillance systems (CCTV), body-worn cameras, drones, biometrics such as facial and object recognition, secret data interception and a variety of sensors.
  • Increased platform surveillance as dominant social structures
  • Availability of a large amount of data that comes from digital platforms and a plethora of personal digital services, such as social media, smart phones, GPS, and health apps, constituting a huge repository of information about citizens and their activities, readily available for use in surveillance, marketing, and political campaigning also known as dataveillance and surveillance capitalism.
  • Developments in AI and machine learning, advances the analytical step in surveillance, for both historical, real time and predictive analysis. A topical example is the controversial facial recognition app Clearview AI, based on a large volume of images of individuals scraped from social media.
  • Increased mandate for authorities to conduct surveillance e.g the new Swedish legislation ‘Secret Data Interception’ enabling the police to use “hacking” as a work method.
  • The intricate interplay between public and private actors, e.g. how government logics of interest to increase security in society are entangled into market-driven logics for capital and its consequences for how government work is organized.
  • Increased risks for democratic rights as privacy, which raises important questions related to how privacy can be conceptualized in relation to AI surveillance and how privacy can and should be protected.
  • The new EU proposal on ‘Chat Control’.

Objectives with the workshop
The core aim of the workshop is to provide a platform and bring together researchers and other relevant stakeholders such as law and policy-makers, practitioners and developers to critically discuss issues related to surveillance and privacy in our contemporary society. In Sweden and within the EU, there is currently a strong political will and pressure to further extend the mandate for state and private actors to use surveillance motivated by the need to increase efficiency and security in society. This raises important questions on how the potential with emerging technologies can be used responsibly to increase efficiency and security in society while protecting fundamental democratic values such as privacy and freedom of expression. The workshop welcomes a broad audience – researchers, law and policy-makers, practitioners and developers.

Keynote speaker
Professor Bernd Carsten Stahl
Bernd Carsten Stahl is Professor of Critical Research in Technology at the School of Computer Science of the University of Nottingham and former Director of the Centre for Computing and Social Responsibility at De Montfort University, Leicester, UK.

Registration and submission
Please note that in order to participate in this workshop you must also register for the conference via the event page. Registration for the conference opens on 15 August.

Submission deadline 31 August, 2023

Notification will be communicated no later than Friday 8 September 2023.

Welcome to submit an extended abstract of 1000-1200 words (excluding the reference list) related to the workshop theme on critical issues related to the contemporary development of surveillance in society. The abstract should be emailed to marie [dot] eneman [at] gu.se with the subject surveillance workshop no later than 31 August.

Organizing Committee
Marie Eneman, Mikael Gustavsson & Jan Ljungberg
Department of Applied Information Technology
University of Gothenburg, Sweden

WASP-HS is considering publishing a collection of papers from the workshops as a joint volume. If you have any questions, you are welcome to contact: marie.eneman@gu.se.