Intelligence and the Monitoring of Everyday Life

Cyber Security: Law and Guidance (2018) ISBN: 9781526505866

24 Pages Posted: 3 May 2019

See all articles by Victoria Wang

Victoria Wang

University of Portsmouth

John V Tucker

Swansea University

Date Written: September 31, 2018


"The most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it" - Mark Weiser

Our digital world is made from software and data is generated wherever there is software. It is natural to collect data, indeed, it is difficult not to collect it and also difficult to erase it. Digital technologies encourage monitoring of physical and social phenomena. The accelerating growth of data is transforming how we live our lives, and hence on surveillance and intelligence practices broadly conceived. Such a transformation presents many challenges.

In this chapter, we reflect on the technologies of monitoring in our digital society and offer a conceptual framework for thinking about digital intelligence in general terms. We address the issue of privacy that is increasingly significant as the monitoring of everyday life becomes all-pervasive. At first sight, privacy issues suggest that we should either (i) not collect certain data, or (ii) limit and regulate access to data collected. Given that data is difficult to manage, and especially to protect and erase, we focus on a third option that is (iii) to hide or mask the identity of the people to whom the data refers. So, we propose that the key to privacy in an increasingly digital world is identity. We outline a theory of identity whose primary purpose is to provide a framework to view the complex path from data to intelligence, and to mark obstacles to personal digital privacy. We use ideas from computer science, surveillance studies, and intelligence studies to guide our arguments.

In Section 2, we provide some key background observations of many significant impacts that digital technologies have on surveillance and intelligence practices in our contemporary digital world. In Section 3, we briefly describe the concept of surveillance as the monitoring of everyday life and summarize software technologies that are the sources of data. In Section 4, we explore how definitions and practices of intelligence may be affected by evolving software technologies and the abundance of data that they generate. In Section 5, we discuss the concepts of privacy and identity, and their interdependency. In Section 6, we explain our concept of identifiers to make our discussion more precise. We conclude by commenting on some implications of our approach and its possible further development.

Keywords: Intelligence, Monitoring, Everyday Life

Suggested Citation

Wang, Victoria and Tucker, John V, Intelligence and the Monitoring of Everyday Life (September 31, 2018). Cyber Security: Law and Guidance (2018) ISBN: 9781526505866, Available at SSRN:

Victoria Wang (Contact Author)

University of Portsmouth ( email )

Room 5.30
St George's Building
Portsmouth, England PO1 2HY
United Kingdom

John V Tucker

Swansea University ( email )

Singleton Park
Swansea, Wales SA2 8PP
United Kingdom

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