When I moved to Wellington three years ago, Edward Snowden had just released a trove of classified NSA documents that detailed some of the Five Eyes’ mass surveillance programmes. Meanwhile, our own foreign intelligence agency, the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), was mired in controversy over an independent report revealing it had been illegally spying on citizens for nearly a decade.
Fast-forward to 2016 and we now know a lot more than we did at that time, including insights to New Zealand’s own contributions to the wider global Five Eyes spy alliance. New legislative amendments have been passed that many critics feel have actually expanded the GCSB’s spy powers, and Government remains relatively quiet on the nature and extent of its surveillance practices – even in spite of widespread citizen protest.
The book The Post-Snowden Era: Mass Surveillance and Privacy in New Zealand (BWB Texts) attempts to situate New Zealand within the wider global context of contemporary surveillance. It does so by focusing not just on state surveillance but the encroachment of commercial interests in our day-to-day activities and communications. I argue that ‘Big Brother’ is no longer an apt metaphor for understanding surveillance in the contemporary digital economy. Surveillance is not limited to some totalitarian state, but a wide range of private and public interests. Surveillance is the basis for a wide range of practices – from targeted marketing to social media to tailored search results. Surveillance is something in which we actively enjoy and participate.
The post-Snowden world is one in which we accept surveillance as part of what enables us to be free. Behind the scenes, however, a global range of political and economic institutions, networks, actors and entities are working hard to normalise these conditions so they remain to our liking.
If you’re interested in hearing more, you can check out an interview I did yesterday with Wallace Chapman on Radio New Zealand. The book is now available at most local bookstores or online in paperback or digital copy at BWB Texts.
— BridgetWilliamsBooks (@BWB_NZ) December 5, 2016