Colin Bennett gives the first Annual CRISP Lecture

‘The Politics of Privacy and the Privacy of Politics: Voter Surveillance in Western Democracies’

given by Professor Colin Bennett, University of Victoria

Centre for Research into Information, Surveillance and Privacy

University of Edinburgh, 5.15pm, Wednesday 3rd April 2013, in the Faculty Room South, David Hume Tower, George Square.


New technologies have made it increasingly easier for political parties to keep track of supporters, donors, candidates, employees and volunteers. Through social media, smart phone applications, sophisticated customer relationships management (CRM) tools, and integrated campaigning software, political parties are now monitoring the behaviour, beliefs and attitudes of the electorate in unprecedented ways.

These “voter management” techniques are now commonplace in the United States, and are widely credited with contributing to the success of President Obama in 2008 and 2012. But parties in parliamentary democracies are learning from this American experience, and beginning to use similar practices to identify their supporters and to encourage them to vote. What are the privacy issues? What are the broader implications for democracy?

Colin Bennett received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the University of Wales, and his Ph.D from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Since 1986 he has taught in the Department of Political Science at the University of Victoria, where he is now Professor. From 1999-2000, he was a fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

In 2007 he was a Visiting Fellow at the Center for the Study of Law and Society at University of California, Berkeley. In 2010, he was Visiting Professor at the School of Law, University of New South Wales. His research has focused on the comparative analysis of surveillance technologies and privacy protection policies at the domestic and international levels.

CRISP is the new Centre for Research into Information, Surveillance and Privacy (Director: Professor Charles Raab) that has been established at Edinburgh, Stirling and the Open University.

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