Ralf Dahrendorf Roundtable “Mass Surveillance Technologies and Liberal Democracy”

Technological changes, if large enough, may lead to massive transformation in the way human societies organize themselves. Today, hundreds of millions of individuals share data about themselves, their immediate environment and their ideas at any moment. These data, if aggregated for a sufficient amount of time, might reveal important information about a) the individual and b) long-term trends within the society. These aggregated data are used by private interest groups to achieve a plethora of different purposes from product development to market orientation. It is also used by governments for various ends that are or might, potentially, be harmful for individual liberties and privacy. On the other hand, with the rise of ICT, security challenges became extremely complex and multi-layered which requires intervention on different levels. The on-going intrusion by governments and private interest groups into the private sphere of individuals around the world is an issue that is inadequately handled using current technological and organizational measures.

With this roundtable we aim to explore the possible short and long-term effects of the use of certain technologies, especially the mass surveillance technologies, on human rights, governance, statehood and the society. In addition, we want to address relevant responses, policies to ensure better coordination vis-à-vis increasingly complex security challenges presented by increased capacity and willingness on the part of states/ private interest groups to interfere with the lives of individuals/citizens.

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