Race and Surveillance Brief

People in Project

Evani Radia-Dixit 
Nina Toft Djanegara

Project Description:

The Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity (CCSRE) is pleased to announce the release of our Race and Surveillance Brief. In this report, we discuss activist strategies for challenging surveillance technology, present a literature review on racialized surveillance, and provide recommendations for researchers and community organizers.

With the growing adoption of new digital technologies and access to mass data, surveillance has been increasingly used to monitor and control communities globally. It is essential to ask: “Surveillance of whom?” Throughout history, surveillance has been used to police Black communities and other racialized groups. These patterns persist today from the disproportionate presence of security cameras in non-white neighborhoods in New York City, to the deployment of facial recognition technology targeting ethnic minority Uyghur Muslims in China.

Given these differential natures of surveillance, we were interested in researching the intersection between race and surveillance. As part of this work, we hosted a panel titled “Surveillance and Cities,” featuring scholars and community organizers focused on issues of surveillance. During the panel, we discussed the impact of surveillance technologies on racialized groups and explored community organizing efforts to challenge surveillance systems in cities. In this newly released brief, we present key takeaways from this panel.

The Race and Surveillance Brief also includes a literature review on race and surveillance, where we conclude with key open questions for researchers and community members interested in engaging in this domain. Although surveillance is becoming increasingly digitized, the practice of surveillance is not new. In this brief, we discuss the ongoing uses of surveillance and delve into how it historically has been used to control and extract value from marginalized groups. Our aim is to prompt critical discussions and investigations on how surveillance perpetuates systemic oppression, as well as work towards alternative systems that center social justice and community safety.

We are grateful to the Stanford Ethics, Society, and Technology Hub for their support on this project. We also express sincere thanks to the following individuals who participated in the Surveillance and Cities panel. They contributed invaluable insights during the panel and thoughtful feedback on this report.

- Simone Browne, Associate Professor of African and African Diaspora Studies, UT Austin  - Lilly Irani, Associate Professor of Communication, UC San Diego and Organizer, Tech Workers Coalition - Tawana Petty, Director of Policy and Advocacy, Algorithmic Justice League - Shakeer Rahman, Lawyer and Community Organizer, Stop LAPD Spying Coalition

Download the brief here