The nerves of government: electronic networking and social control in the information society
Informatisation was introduced as a functional parameter in social and political research in 1978 (Nora & Minc 1978). Today, nearly a quarter of a century later, popular and academic political debates in the West appear to be growing increasingly aware of the intense interaction between information technology and social development. This project follows in the footsteps of this increased awareness and explores the meaning of digitisation for the socio- political concept of citizens' privacy.This project seeks to contribute to a wider body of literature that desires to provide meaningful answers to the following questions: (1) what sociotechnical trends are evident today in information privacy policies in the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States (US)? (2) What particular political visions do these trends seem to favour and what do these visions appear to suggest for the future of citizens' privacy in the West? (3) What is the potential importance of digital networking for practices of social management and control, both by governmental decision centres and commercial bodies?As case study for the above issues, the eventful appearance of two recent legislative works has been selected: the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), enacted by the UK parliament in July 2000; and the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), enacted in the US in 1994. Both Acts, which have yet to be fully implemented, in effect make it mandatory for all telecommunications operators and service providers to, among other things, ensure that their customers' communications can be intercepted by law enforcement and intelligence organisations, whose interception capabilities have been seriously hampered by the digitisation of telecommunications during the past few years.The project combines quantitative and qualitative data on RIPA and CALEA, which have been acquired through open- source, restricted or leaked government and industry reports on the subject, as well as through a number of interviews with informed individuals representing different sides of the communications interception (CI) debate. The development of communications interception is thus placed into the context of complex relationships between political actors, such as national policy experts and government advisors, state and corporate decision -makers and members of regulatory bodies.