Research Centres

The Surveillance Studies Centre

Surveillance of many kinds is growing rapidly throughout the world and the Surveillance Studies Centre (SSC) at Queen’s University is committed to high quality research to follow such developments. Current active research explores the relationship between big data and surveillance in three linked streams: security, marketing, and governance– indeed on many aspects of contemporary monitoring, tracking, management and control. While much research happens on the Queen’s University campus, the SSC is also part of a broad network of surveillance research that is both multi-disciplinary and international.

The Surveillance Studies Centre is led by Director David Murakami Wood, and Deputy Director Alana Saulnier. Surveillance Studies has flourished at Queen’s since the early 1990s, under the former direction of Professor Emeritus David Lyon, from 2000-2009 under The Surveillance Project banner, and in 2010 became the Surveillance Studies Centre. Details of our many publications may be found on this site, along with descriptions of current research projects. Although most of our work is university-based, we also partner with a number of other organizations including the Office of the Privacy Commissioner (Canada), the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group and other concerned with data protection and civil society responses to expanding surveillance.

Our primary funding is from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). We are currently completing work on the Big Data Surveillance (2015-2022) project funded by a SSHRC Parnership Grant. This study is led by Professor Emeritus David Lyon, with a team of five co-investigators, eleven collaborators, and ten national and international academic and non-academic partners from public policy and activism groups, as well as graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. Previous projects include The New Transparency Project (2008-2015), a seven-year Major Collaborative Research Initiative funded by SSHRC, involving colleagues from around the world, including other key nodes at the universities of Toronto, Alberta, and Victoria, plus the Open University in the UK. The SSC has also produced several reports on Wearables (2016-2017), Surveillance Drones (2013-2014), The Private Sector, National Security and Personal Data (2011-2012), SCAN (Surveillance Camera Awareness Network) (2008-2010) and Location Technologies (2005-2005) with funding support by the federal Office of the Privacy Commissioner (OPC) Contributions Program. The SSC also hosts Surveillance & Society, the online journal of the Surveillance Studies Network, with which the SSC has a close relationship.

While the SSC works with a wide variety of other individuals and organizations, it also has some distinct emphases. The SSC

  • engages with all kinds of surveillance, not only those that are technologically mediated
  • is based in the social sciences but works in technologically, ethically and politically informed ways
  • does not regard surveillance as inherently sinister, but deeply ambiguous and always questionable
  • insists that contemporary surveillance involves social sorting and thus raises justice issues
  • accents research towards groups and individuals negatively affected by surveillance, locally and globally
  • considers privacy important, alongside civil liberties and human right
  • insists that while surveillance technologies require regulation, technical “solutions” are inadequate
  • believes that both the spread and the critique of surveillance should be seen in a global context

    The SSC facilitates collaboration between its members and beyond, advancing the Surveillance Studies field through workshops, lectures and seminars, empirical work, a visiting scholar program, publishing, community outreach, liaising with policy and activist groups, and student training. In alternate years, we mount a week-long Surveillance Studies Summer Seminar for graduate students.

    Inquiries are welcome, from other surveillance researchers, the media, would-be visiting scholars and students and any who wish to find out more or who believe they have a contribution to make to our work.

    David Murakami Wood
, Director, Surveillance Studies Centre

    Alana Saulnier, Deputy Director, Surveillance Studies Centre

    The Surveillance Studies Centre is a multi-disciplinary and international research centre affiliated with the Department of Sociology at Queen's University, Kingston, Canada.