Private Eyes in the Sky: Emerging Technology and the Political Consequences of Eroding Government Secrecy

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See all articles by Erik Lin-Greenberg

Erik Lin-Greenberg

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Theo Milonopoulos

Columbia University

Date Written: December 8, 2020

Abstract

How do emerging technologies that erode governments’ near-monopolies on intelligence information affect public support for leaders and their foreign policies? Technologies – like imagery satellites – that were once the domain of state governments are now increasingly available to commercial and private actors. As a result, non-government entities can now exercise the disclosure decision, publicly divulging information whose release was once controlled by states. We argue that non-government entities with access to these technologies serve as alternative information sources that can verify government claims or reveal activities governments have not previously acknowledged. Using original survey experiments we find that commercial satellite imagery can serve as an informational cue that shifts public opinion, and, depending on its content, either attenuates or bolsters the effect of similar cues from government sources. The findings advance debates over secrecy in international relations and on the effect of emerging technologies in the security domain.

Keywords: Emerging Technology, Satellites, Disclosure, Information Cues

Suggested Citation

Lin-Greenberg, Erik and Milonopoulos, Theo, Private Eyes in the Sky: Emerging Technology and the Political Consequences of Eroding Government Secrecy (December 8, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=

Erik Lin-Greenberg (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology ( email )

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HOME PAGE: http://www.eriklg.com

Theo Milonopoulos

Columbia University ( email )

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420 W. 118th Street
New York, NY 10027
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://polisci.columbia.edu/content/theo-milonopoulos

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