Freedom From Surveillance

Talk delivered by Tom Simpson at the Department of Philosophy, University of St Andrews
Monday, December 4, 2017 - 16:30

On 4th December at 4.30 – 6pm , Tom Simpson, Associate Prof of Philosophy and Public Policy in the Blavatnik School of Government at Oxford will deliver a talk  'Freedom from Surveillance'.  The talk will be held in room 104  Edgecliffe, which is building number 43 on the campus map.  Please email Professor Katherine Hawley if you would like to attend. 


Snowden revealed that the NSA and GCHQ have hacked the Internet. Approximately 85-90% of Internet traffic is accessible to the agencies, and legislation since has largely formalised what was previously an informal surveillance programme. This talk examines what it would take for there to be an objection, in principle, to mass surveillance by the state. Liberals have struggled to articulate any strong objection, for reasons that I explain. At first glance, Philip Pettit’s republicanism looks tailor-made to explain its wrongfulness. I show that it does not, and that its approval of mass surveillance points to a deeper problem with that view. Finally, I argue that a conservative valuation of certain forms of freedom is one attractive way to justify the wrongfulness of mass surveillance.