Department für Philosophie

The Ethics of State Mass Surveillance

  • Ansprechpartner:

    Christian Seidel

  • Starttermin:


In the aftermath of 9/11, many governments have increased their surveillance efforts in an effort to combat crime and terrorism. The current rise of mass surveillance has been facilitated by the internet, advancements in data-processing, intelligent face recognition and various other new technologies. The unprecedented extent to which even liberal democracies monitor their citizens raises pressing moral questions, which have so far received relatively little attention from philosophers.
On the one hand, many scholars have stressed the importance of privacy both for the flourishing of individuals as well as for the functioning of a democratic society as a whole. And state mass surveillance constitutes a serious infringement of citizens’ privacy. On the other hand, extensive and sophisticated surveillance efforts promise enhanced security, the provision of which is among a state’s primary purposes. Indeed, it has even been suggested that increased surveillance is imperative to prevent catastrophes of a global scale, such as terrorist strikes with nuclear or biological weapons of mass destruction.
Trying to find the proper balance between privacy rights and security considerations, I am working on an empirically-informed assessment of the morality of state mass surveillance.