Cybersecurity, Human Rights, and Empiricism: The Case of Digital Surveillance

Author ORCID Identifier

Jonathon Penney: 0000-0001-9570-0146

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date


Source Publication

Paul Cornish (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Cyber Security, Oxford Handbooks (2021; online edn, Oxford Academic, 8 Dec. 2021),


mass surveillance; targeted surveillance; cybersecurity; state surveillance; digital surveillance; chilling effects theory; human rights; civil society; self-censorship; rights against discrimination


This chapter examines recent research on the impact of surveillance, both mass and targeted forms, and considers these insights and their implications for cybersecurity. State surveillance has been central to the ‘securitization’ in cybersecurity, particularly the increasing sophistication and expansion of digital surveillance. The chapter looks at different theoretical and empirical approaches to understanding the impact of such surveillance activities, particularly surveillance studies and chilling effects theory. It also considers how new research shows that surveillance has an impact on a range of fundamental human rights and freedoms, with important implications for civil society and deliberative democracy. Awareness of surveillance, or the threat of it, can have a substantial chilling effect on people’s exercise of these rights, leading them to self-censor or avoid seeking or imparting certain sensitive information. Surveillance can also be said to violate international rights against discrimination and protections for minorities, in that it has unequal or disproportionate impact on certain groups, including vulnerable minorities. The chapter then argues for new frameworks for cybersecurity centred on civil society or human rights.

Request a copy that is accessible using assistive technology (link opens in a new window)

Catalogue Record

Click here to access the catalogue record for this item.