Surveillance R&D

Discussion Prompt: Are civil liberties and democratic accountability sufficiently incorporated into the priorities of surveillance research programs?

Outputs of science and innovation policies are bound to profoundly affect our societies. This is particularly true of surveillance technologies, which can have an adverse impact on citizens’ rights and freedoms. Yet, it is often only at a later stage — when these technologies are market-ready — that any meaningful public debate actually takes place.

Think of automated video-surveillance and applications like “facial recognition” for instance: the technology is now being rolled-out and is stirring controversy in many European countries, but for years such technologies have been developed and tested by public and private organisations in the context of publicly-funded research projects. How, and by whom, are such research agendas decided upon? On what basis and according to which priorities? Are fundamental rights aspects actually taken into account by the consortia researching surveillance technologies, and if so, how exactly?

These questions appear all the more pressing considering the European Union’s commitment to the research and development (R&D) of surveillance technology has risen steadily in the context of the Horizon 2020 research program, which represents 50% of the overall public funding for security research in the EU. Overall, EU funding of security-related technologies more than doubled in recent years, from about 3.8 billion euros for the 2007-2013 budget cycle to 8 billion euros for 2014-2020. As for the 2021-2027 period, recent budget discussions secured a 30% increase for current research and innovation programmes.

In view of the fast-paced growth of public R&D programmes for surveillance and security-related technologies, and given the many pressing questions regarding potential right infringements of such research products, what should be done to ensure proper democratic legitimacy of future security research programs? What oversight mechanisms need to be in place to ensure that research in surveillance technologies can be reconciled with fundamental rights?

The EU’s R&D process: unaccountable, unethical, even illegal?

European taxpayers likely fund discriminatory technology.

Dr. Gemma Galdon-Clavell is a tech policy analyst working on the social, ethical, and legal impact of data-intensive technologies and algorithmic auditing. She is the Founder and Director of Eticas Consulting and was a 2017 EU Women Innovators Prize finalist. She has ongoing research contracts and grants from the European Commission (FP7 and H2020 programs), the European Agency for Fundamental Rights and the Open Society Foundation, among others. Dr. Galdon-Clavell has led research as a Principal Investigator in more than 10 large projects. She is a scientific and ethics expert at the Directorate General for Research and Innovation at the European Commission and sits on the board of Privacy International and Data & Ethics. She was recently shortlisted for the Technology Playmakers Award. Her work is focused on building socio-technical data architectures that incorporate legal, social, and ethical concerns in their conception, production, and implementation. She is a policy analyst by training and has worked on projects relating to Artificial Intelligence and human rights and values, the societal impact of technology, smart cities, privacy, and crisis management tech. Her recent academic publications tackle issues related to the impact of COVID on digitalisation and society, AI and the future of work, the proliferation of data-intensive technologies in urban settings, security and mega-events, and the relationship between privacy, ethics and technology, and smart cities. She completed her PhD on surveillance, security, and urban policy at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, where she also received an MSc on Policy Management, and was later appointed Director of the Security Policy Programme at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC). Previously, she worked at the Transnational Institute, the United Nations’ Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) and the Catalan Institute for Public Security. She teaches topics related to her research at several foreign universities and is a member of the IDRC-funded Latin-American Surveillance Studies Network. Additionally, she is a regular analyst on TV, radio, and print media. Previous posts (selected): - Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) - Institut de Govern i Polítiques Públiques (IGOP-UAB) - United Nations (UNITAR) - Catalan Institute for Public Security (ISPC) - Transnational Institute (TNI) - Department of Applied Economics (UAB) Teaching: - Security and Technology (Universitat de Girona) - Technology and Privacy (Universitat de Girona) - Public policy (Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez, Mexico) - Urban Management (Erasmus Universiteit, Rotterdam) Media: - Contributor at El País - Contributor at - Contributor at