Skip to main content

Privacy Awareness Through Security Branding

Article Category

Article available in the folowing languages:

Concerns about secret surveillance

Security surveillance is ubiquitous, and many feel it has gone too far. An EU project studied how the security industry sees its role, finding little awareness of privacy issues but also establishing a productive dialogue.

Climate Change and Environment

Fighting crime and maintaining security increasingly rely on pervasive surveillance, which also means secret databases. Many in the community feel that such actions infringe civil liberties with little accountability, and that the situation seems likely to worsen. Hence, the EU-funded project 'Privacy awareness through security branding' (PATS) attempted to determine how security industry players see their role. The consortium included five European partners plus one each from Israel and the United States, and ran from August 2009 to March 2012. The group also investigated how the industry might become more aware of and concerned about public worries. The first phase of research involved detailing the current security regimes of partner countries (Finland, Germany, Israel, Poland, the United Kingdom and the United States) and also at European-level. The information was compared against the respective historical/cultural contexts, varying national notions of security and modern international situations. As a result, the project devised a classification system for industry players, covering security providers, technology producers, research organisations and other relevant groups. In the second phase, work included interviewing security representatives, which revealed a generally low awareness of privacy and occasional rejection of responsibility. The project identified the following reasons for this: industry players are not inclined to discuss privacy, nor does the issue feature in their representations of themselves. Additionally, economic forces do not encourage data protection, meaning that self-regulation is poor. PATS' main contribution was a multi-dimensional branding/communication strategy that promotes the value of privacy. A resulting roadmap for development will provide security companies wishing to work towards privacy awareness with a plan for doing so. Using the above concepts, the consortium devised policy recommendations for national and EU frameworks. The study group organised several dialogue workshops, focus groups and two sizeable conferences. Discussions from these gatherings resulted in a major book, numerous journal publications and a series of newsletters. As a consequence of project work, the status of the industry regarding privacy concerns and self-regulation is much clearer. Additionally, a productive dialogue was initiated among industry players, with some constructive relationships forged between players and activists.


Surveillance, security, privacy, crime, civil liberties, accountability, data protection, self-regulation

Discover other articles in the same domain of application