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

    13 Citations (Scopus)
    46 Downloads (Pure)


    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)862-873
    Number of pages12
    JournalPublic Administration Review (PAR)
    Issue number5
    Early online date9 Feb 2021
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2021

    Bibliographical note

    This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution‐NonCommercial‐NoDerivs License, which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non‐commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made.


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

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Marketing
    • Sociology and Political Science
    • Public Administration


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