Somebody's watching

Date published: 2008-08-28 3:05:55 PM

In the 1980s, David Lyon of Queen’s University studied the sociology of the much-hyped microelectronics revolution that gave way to the so-called information society. In time, he focused his research on the origins and consequences of processing personal data, arguing that surveillance has become a major dimension of modern life.

As director of the Surveillance Project at Queen’s, Lyon works with an international team to examine how growing computer dependence and reliance on personal data collection has raised public concern about privacy and civil liberties. Among the team’s recent initiatives is a project called the New Transparency. Funded by SSHRC, the project examines how the digital age exposes the identities of individuals and the workings of institutions to open—and hidden—scrutiny.

With surveillance now experienced as an everyday reality, Lyon and his colleagues are detailing the social consequences of being monitored—from the benefits, such as ease of purchasing, to the perils such as identity theft.

David Lyon, sociology, Queen’s University