Department of Sociology

Department of


site header

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 camera surveillance, ID systems, biometrics, social media, border and airport controls – 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.


Our primary funding is from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, currently through The New Transparency Project, a seven-year Major Collaborative Research Initiative, 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. Another venture SCAN (Surveillance Camera Awareness Network) is also based at the SSC, and the SSC hosts Surveillance & Society, the online journal of the Surveillance Studies Network, with which the SSC has a close relationship.

Surveillance Studies has flourished at Queen’s since the early 1990s, and from 2000-2009 was carried out under The Surveillance Project banner. 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.


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 Lyon FRSC
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.