What’s in it for us? Benevolence, national security and digital surveillance

Sara Degli Esposti, Ball Kirstie, Sally Dibb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article challenges suggestions that citizens should accept digital surveillance technologies (DSTs) and trade their privacy for better security. Drawing on data from nine EU countries, this research shows that citizens’ support for DSTs varies not only depending on the way their data are used but also depending on their views of the security agency operating them. Using an institutional trustworthiness lens, this research investigates three DST cases – smart CCTV, smartphone location tracking, and deep packet inspection – that present escalating degrees of privacy risk to citizens. The findings show that the perceived benevolence of security agencies is essential to acceptability in all three cases. For DSTs with greater privacy risk, questions of competence and integrity enter citizens’ assessments.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)(In-Press)
JournalPublic Administration Review (PAR)
Early online date9 Feb 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 Feb 2021


  • Security agencies
  • Institutional trust
  • Digital surveillance
  • Quantile regression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Marketing
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration

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