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Long-term Prescription? Digital Surveillance is Here to Stay


An emerging literature has shown concerns about the impact of the
pandemic on the proliferation of digital surveillance. Contributing to these
debates, in this paper we demonstrate how the pandemic facilitates digital
surveillance in three ways: (1) By shifting everyday communication to digital
means it contributes to the generation of extensive amounts of data
susceptible to surveillance. (2) It motivates the development of new digital
surveillance tools. (3) The pandemic serves as a perfect justification for
governments to prolong digital surveillance. We provide empirical
anecdotes for these three effects by examining reports by the Global Digital
Policy Incubator at Stanford University. Building on our argument, we
conclude that we might be on the verge of a dangerous normalization of
digital surveillance. Thus, we call on scholars to consider the full effects of
public health crises on politics and suggest scrutinizing sources of digital
data and the complex relationships between the state, corporate actors,
and the sub-contractors behind digital surveillance.


digital surveillance, covid-19, pandemic, privacy, human rights, surveillance capitalism

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Author Biography

Ahmed Maati

Ahmed Maati is a PhD candidate, a research associate, and a junior lecturer
at the department of Political Science at Eberhard-Karls-Universität Tübingen. His research foci include identity and comparative
politics of the Middle East, theories of the state, and digital politics. Maati
holds a Master’s degree in “Comparative and Middle East Politics and Society”
(CMEPS) from the joint program between the American University in
Cairo and the Eberhard-Karls-University of Tübingen.

Žilvinas Švedkauskas

Žilvinas Švedkauskas is a PhD candidate at Eberhard-Karls-Universität
Tübingen and a Bucerius Fellow of the “Trajectories of Change” programme
at ZEIT-Stiftung Ebelin und Gerd Bucerius, specializing in comparative
politics and democratization. His research focus lies in constitutional
change and digital transformation in Africa, the Middle East, and the post-Soviet space. Žilvinas holds a joint MA degree in Comparative & Middle East
Politics from Tübingen University and the American University in Cairo.
Since 2021 he is also a board member at the Euromed Young Researchers
Lab hosted by EuroMeSCo, the leading network of think tanks and research
centres in the Euro-Mediterranean region.