Science, Technology and Society

Our Science, Technology and Society list publishes books that examine the social, political and economic implications of developments in science and technology.

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Science, Technology and Society

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This chapter summarizes the uses of surveillance technologies in migration, border management and humanitarian aid, to explain contemporary capitalism’s mainstream approach to migration and the motivations behind the investments of tech companies.

Given the far-reaching effects of these technologies, it is evident they will soon have consequences for humanity as a whole. Migrants, asylum seekers and refugees have much weaker legal status than those of citizens, and states claim the authority to control those who cross their borders by invoking their sovereign rights. The fields of border and national security are more secretive, face less scrutiny and leak less information, and societies take a less sympathetic approach to migrants and foreigners. This allows tech companies, along with military and financial firms and security bureaucracies, to do as they please on the global stage, and implement the most speculative AI or blockchain projects.

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Digital identity projects are related to supporting migrants and refugees and contributing to their financial and social integration. Despite mostly positive approaches (with or without reservations), when digital identity initiatives are evaluated from the perspective of the manifestation of surveillance capitalism in migration management, many examples demonstrate corporate agenda-setting and new hegemonic discourses.

Smart border and digital identity applications do not contradict but complement one another. If the main issue in the use of surveillance technologies in border and migration management is data collection and extraction, smart border applications function, through data analysis, to decide who is allowed to cross the border and, after crossing the border, how far they are allowed to go. A digital identity, on the other hand, is where such data is stored, and thus very valuable for both states and private companies for financial inclusion and tracking purposes.

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Surveillance technologies developed in migration and border management can spread to other fields and affect an entire society. Suppose the lie detectors piloted on borders are successful and they meet no significant opposition from society, then we should not be surprised to see lie detectors in workplaces or in police stations in the near future. This, in turn, would mean new mechanisms of oppression in society at large.

When it comes to social issues, advanced statistics can be manipulated in favour of the powerful, with probable options being presented as inevitable or actual. This encourages an approach that perceives such situations as neutral and objective, magnifying the algorithm and obscuring the structural factors. This can cause serious problems in migration and border management.

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Big data analysis has exciting potential in migration and border management and humanitarian emergencies. Inferences made from data sets allow us to analyse the basic characteristics and dynamics of mass movements and make predictions about the future.

This chapter discusses how private companies’ dominance over big data analysis should be questioned more vigorously. Companies that collect and analyse data have better capacity than states and UN agencies to monitor and direct ‘transient’ people. Strong legal protections do not exist regarding privacy and consent in many countries on migration routes.

Because of active national and international use of smartphones, social media and mobile banking, companies have become the biggest collectors and analysts of data. As most of these companies rely on the business model of surveillance capitalism, this provides invaluable resources to capitalism for the surveillance, manipulation and steering of people in a given direction.

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In addition to discussing the consequences of capitalist policies in migration; this chapter demonstrates how surveillance technologies in this field provide valuable data on the trajectory of capitalism.

A large number of companies and states invest in these fields, but further debate is needed on motivations besides profit maximization, such as how alliances are formed, which actors set the agenda, and how capitalists use the outcomes. This is related to the process by which surveillance technologies provide global capitalism with immense power to reshape and reposition the global proletariat.

At a time when large masses of people move quickly, these technologies make it possible to identify migrants before they even arrive at the border, analyse their data, decide on whether to allow them entry, and closely monitor those allowed in. This process of selection and the interests of capitalism in shaping the labour market constitute the essence of the issue.

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Many technological solutions that stand out within migration and border management fall within the scope of the tech product package known as ‘smart borders’. These ‘solutions’ make it possible to control activities beyond physical borders and to detect and prevent migration, through such tools as AI algorithms, drones, facial recognition, biometrics, satellite images, sensors and mobile phone and social media data analyses.

Both the USA and EU have hired private companies to militarize their borders with advanced surveillance technologies. Public funding is not being used to ensure the rights of migrants or to resolve economic and political problems, but to support companies in the development of new and deadly technologies.

The most significant producers of smart border applications are military companies. Those who produce the weapons and bombs that force refugees to flee their countries are the same companies that produce the tools for detecting those people in border areas.

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How Surveillance Technologies Are Used Against Migrants

In recent years, UN agencies, global tech corporations, states and humanitarian NGOs have invested in advanced technologies from smart borders to digital identities to manage migratory movements. These are surveillance technologies that have intensified the militarization of borders and became a testing ground for surveillance capitalism.

This book shows how these technologies reproduce structural inequalities and discriminative policies. Korkmaz reveals the way in which they grant extensive powers to states and big tech corporations to control communities.

Unpacking the effects of surveillance capitalism on vulnerable populations, this is a much-needed intervention that will be of interest to readers in a range of fields.

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The chapter summarizes the main policy recommendations of the book: The harm from non-consensual intimate images (NCII) is caused also by platforms and viewers who should both be liable for breach of the claimant’s privacy. The harm from NCII is exceptional so liability should not necessarily be imposed for harm from other user generated content. In reality, hosts and viewers sell and buy the claimant’s images without the claimant’s consent, so they should be strictly liable for the ensuing harm, as those who sell and buy stolen chattel are liable to the original owner. Platforms should actively filter out non-consensual intimate images, regardless of their size. Similar to defences to criminal responsibility for child pornography, promptly deleting unsolicited NCII should prevent civil liability. Liability of each viewer should be to a significant amount, but should not extend to the entire loss.

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This chapter proposes to understand child pornography as an extreme and complicated instance of NCII. It (1) establishes viewers’ liability for viewing child pornography under privacy law (as distinct from bespoke statutory provisions), (2) examines whether viewing child pornography could be considered as ‘acting in concert’ and hence lead to full liability of each viewer to the victim’s entire damage from the viewing of their abuse (and possibly also from their initial abuse); (3) argues that the holding in the US Supreme Court in Paroline v United States is compatible with demand-based liability: A viewer could and should be liable to the victim’s injury from the initial abuse, as long as the production of the child pornography was (also) motivated by the prospect of distribution. However, the viewer should not be liable to victims whose images he did not view for harm from either the initial abuse or the circulation of images.

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Image-based Abuse and Beyond

Should digital platforms be responsible for intimate images posted without the subject’s consent? Could the viewers of such images be liable simply by viewing them?

This book answers these questions in the affirmative, while considering the social, legal and technological features of unauthorized dissemination of intimate images, or ‘revenge porn’. In doing so, it asks fundamental socio-legal questions about responsibility, causation and apportionment, as well as conceptualizing private information as property.

With a focus on private law theory, the book defines the appropriate scope of liability of platforms and viewers, while critiquing both the EU’s and US’ solutions to the problem. Through its analysis, the book develops a new theory of egalitarian digital privacy.

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