Project Indect and the NeoConOpticon

Following the release of the NeoConOpticon report, Ben Hayes of Statewatch has set up an interesting blog monitoring EU security policy, called (ahem…) Notes on the European Security Research Program. One the first post (and a follow-up) concerned one particular EU 7th Framework Program-funded project called Indect, which seems to think that it is a great idea to have an Enemy of the State-style comprehensive surveillance system across Europe. It appears to be filmed in Poland – you think the Poles at least would have learned from almost half a century of totalitarian rule…

There are of course, hundreds of these security projects being funded by the EU that Ben’s report detailed (with a tiny, tiny number of alternative or critical ones, and of course some token nods to simple ethical concerns like privacy within some of the projects). One that finished in 2007 was the SAFEE project that proposed (amongst other things) to put cameras in the back of every aircraft seat so that passengers’ facial expressions could be monitored automatically for signs off threat… it’s unclear how many of these ever get beyond the research stage – and I hope most don’t – but if they do, the future of the EU is one of a tightly controlled society of people constantly monitored even at the most personal level in case they step out of line. The great thing about the NeoConOpticon report is that it puts all of these things together rather than treating them in isolation. I wonder if the individual researchers involved would think differently if they actually considered their work in this context and in the context of the political architecture of security that is being built in the EU.

Anyway, here’s the PR video for Indect, for those who are interested in such things. It’s typical of the genre: a dumbed-down, hyped-up, over-macho, TV-detective series pastiche with a ridiculous voice-over and music. No doubt it goes down a storm at sales events.

Anyway, keep an eye on Ben’s blog. I will be.

Europe’s new security-industrial complex

neoconopticonThere is a superb and chilling new report out today that utterly demolishes the European Union’s claims to be in any way an  ethical or progressive leader on issues of security and surveillance. The report written by Ben Hayes for the Transantional Institute and Statewatch, documents in some detail the new vision for security in the EU, which the authors describe as a ‘neo-con-opticon.’ The report confirms a lot of things that have been concerning me about the direction and emphasis of EU security research and the increasingly unnacountable and behind closed-doors ways in which security policy is being developed. I asked back in January in an editorial in Surveillance & Society whether surveillance was becoming the new ‘baroque arsenal’, Mary Kaldor’s famous phrase to describe the huge, intricate and complex technocentric security structures of the second Cold War. This report answers that question with a resounding ‘yes’.

The press release quotes from the introduction:

“Despite the often benign intent behind collaborative European research into integrated land, air, maritime, space and cyber-surveillance systems, the EU’s security and R&D policy is coalescing around a high-tech blueprint for a new kind of security. It envisages a future world of red zones and green zones; external borders controlled by military force and internally by a sprawling network of physical and virtual security checkpoints; public spaces, micro-states and mega events policed by high-tech surveillance systems and rapid reaction forces; peacekeeping and crisis management missions that make no operational distinction between the suburbs of Basra or the Banlieue; and the increasing integration of defence and national security functions at home and abroad.

It is not just a case of sleepwalking into or waking up to a surveillance society, as the UK’s Information Commissioner famously warned, it feels more like turning a blind eye to the start of a new kind of arms race, one in which all the weapons are pointing inwards. Welcome to the NeoConOpticon.”

But don’t stop there. You can (well, you must) read the full report here: NeoConOpticon – The EU Security-Industrial Complex

And whilst you are at it, download Tony Bunyan’s equally superb report, The Shape of Things to Come – the EU Future Group, on the EU’s thoroughly undemocratic attempt to bypass public debate and hand internal security and surveillance policy over to the transnational security companies and the police and intelligence services.

(thanks to Rosamunde van Brakel for passing this on)

Datawars Conference

There will be a very interesting -looking conference in Amsterdam, 11-12 June, called Datawars: Fighting Terrorism through Data. According to the call for papers, the workshop will be held at the University of Amsterdam in June and will explore the ethical and political implications of the new data-led approach to security, risk and fighting terrorism in Europe. Suggested topics include:

  • Privacy, security and human rights
  • Ethics, responsibility and justice in European data wars
  • Risk, prevention, preemption
  • Data and surveillance
  • Private authorities, states and the European Union
  • Constituting Europe through data

It´s part of a project run by a couple of excellent researchers, Louise Amoore and Marieke de Goede, of the Universities of Durham and Amsterdam respectively (who probably don´t remember but I worked in an tiny attic office opposite them in the Politics Dept at Newcastle for a few months just after my PhD!). I might go as I have been doing some work on attempts to create global databases, called ´From Echelon to Server in the Sky´, but the timing might be awkward (unfortunately I can´t reveal why yet…).