Intelligence and the monitoring of everyday life

Victoria Wang, John Tucker

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


‘The most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it.’

Our digital world is made from software and data is generated wherever there is software. It is natural to collect data, indeed, it is difficult not to collect it and also difficult to erase it. Digital technologies encourage monitoring of physical and social phenomena. The accelerating growth of data is transforming how we live our lives, and hence on surveillance and intelligence practices broadly conceived. Such a transformation presents many challenges.
In this chapter, we reflect on the technologies of monitoring in our digital society and offer a conceptual framework for thinking about digital intelligence in general terms. We address the issue of privacy that is increasingly significant as the monitoring of everyday life becomes all-pervasive. At first sight, privacy issues suggest that we should either (i) not collect certain data, or (ii) limit and regulate access to data collected. Given that data is difficult to manage, and especially to protect and erase, we focus on a third option that is (iii) to hide or mask the identity of the people to whom the data refers. So, we propose that the key to privacy in an increasingly digital world is identity. We outline a theory of identity whose primary purpose is to provide a framework to view the complex path from data to intelligence, and to mark obstacles to personal digital privacy. We use ideas from computer science, surveillance studies, and intelligence studies to guide our arguments.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCyber Security: Law and Guidance
EditorsHelen Wong
PublisherBloomsbury Professional
ISBN (Print)9781526505866
Publication statusPublished - 13 Sept 2018


  • intelligence practice
  • Monitoring
  • Digital privacy
  • Identity
  • Identifiers


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