Database-Driven Empowering Surveillance, 2019 | Machsomwatch
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Database-Driven Empowering Surveillance, 2019

Shaul A. Duke  (PhD)

Database-Driven Empowering Surveillance:
Definition and Assessment of Effectiveness

Shaul A. Duke 
Ben-Gurion University, Israel 


This article offers a definition and explores the dynamics of database-driven empowering surveillance. That is, it focuses on surveillance from below that is directed at powerful institutions or groups for the benefit of the marginalized, using a database as its main facilitator.
By examining six Israeli NGOs working for the protection of Palestinian human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, I am able to break down the database-driven empowering surveillance process of amassing and disseminating information, to identify its mechanism of action, and to highlight its limiting and enabling factors.
This scrutiny, in turn, helps shed light on the capacity of NGOs to effectively monitor powerful institutions: to surveil from below in spaces with pervasive top-down surveillance; to surveil in territories under the control of the surveillance subjects; to impact policy on polarized issues and to enforce human rights.
Empowering surveillance emerges from this article as a process that requires those carrying it out to maintain a delicate balance between using a forceful mechanism against those monitored and being highly dependent on third parties with coercive power—often from the same organizations being monitored—to exact the desired deterring effect.

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