Conceptualising surveillance harms in the context of political protest: privacy, autonomy and freedom of assembly

Aston, Valerie (2018) Conceptualising surveillance harms in the context of political protest: privacy, autonomy and freedom of assembly. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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Abstract

This thesis considers the human rights issues arising from the use of police surveillance of political activists on demonstrations. Such protests are routinely subject to intensive forms of visible, or ‘overt’, surveillance, including the use of dedicated ‘intelligence gathering’ teams to monitor, photograph and film participants. The courts – both domestic and in Strasbourg - have generally taken the view that such measures will not, in themselves, amount to an interference with a person’s right to privacy or their right to freedom of assembly. This thesis takes issue with this approach and offers a new, and more developed conceptualisation of the harms to privacy and to assembly rights arising from police surveillance activities.
The thesis draws on interviews with around 30 individuals, each of whom have been subjected to police surveillance in the context of political protest. Testimony from interviewees demonstrates a complex matrix of harms arising from overt surveillance practices which have not been adequately recognised within the human rights framework, nor have been adequately regulated by statute or common law.
The thesis suggests a new conceptualisation of surveillance harms, which acknowledges the capacity of surveillance to result in a loss of autonomy, identity and integrity; and also to disrupt and obstruct the mobilisation processes which make protest possible. Harms must be recognised, it is argued, as arising both within the framework of privacy, and the right to freedom of assembly. Further, it is necessary for the courts to recognise that protest is an on-going process rather than a stand-alone ‘event’, and as such is vulnerable to disruption by surveillance activities. Surveillance must also be understood as being distinct from general observation by its position within a surveillance assemblage and a police ‘repertoire of control’ mechanisms in use during all stages of assembly mobilisations.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Social Sciences > School of Law
Depositing User: Users 11011 not found.
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2019 15:20
Last Modified: 16 Oct 2019 15:20
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/72627
DOI:

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