Surveillance, big data and democracy: Lessons for Australia from the US and UK

Melissa de Zwart, Sal Humphreys, Beatrix van Dissel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the era of big data, where people find themselves surveilled in ever more
finely granulated aspects of their lives, and where the data profiles built from an
accumulation of data gathered about themselves and others are used to predict as well as shape their behaviours, the question of privacy protection arises constantly. In this article we interrogate whether the discourse of privacy is
sufficient to address this new paradigm of information flow and control. What we
confront in this area is a set of practices concerning the collection, aggregation,
sharing, interrogation and uses of data on a scale that crosses private and public
boundaries, jurisdictional boundaries, and importantly, the boundaries between
reality and simulation. The consequences of these practices are emerging as
sometimes useful and sometimes damaging to governments, citizens and
commercial organisations. Understanding how to regulate this sphere of activity
to address the harms, to create an infrastructure of accountability, and to bring
more transparency to the practices mentioned, is a challenge of some complexity. Using privacy frameworks may not provide the solutions or protections that ultimately are being sought.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)713-747
Number of pages35
JournalUNSW Law Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


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