By Marianna Caserta, Francesca Casnati, Chiara Cingottini, Giulia Sonzogni, Ilaria Tedoldi

Metadata in exchange
for security

Mass surveillance is the surveillance of an entire or a substantial fraction of a population for collecting personal data; it is often carried out by governments or governmental organisations, but may also be carried out by corporations, either on behalf of governments or at their own initiative. Depending on each nation’s laws and judicial systems, the legality of and the permission required to engage in mass surveillance varies.

Mass surveillance has often been cited as necessary to fight terrorism, to prevent social unrest, to protect national security, to fight child pornography and protect children. Conversely, mass surveillance has equally as often been criticized for violating privacy rights, limiting civil and political rights and freedoms, and being illegal under some legal or constitutional systems. There is a fear that increasing mass surveillance will ultimately lead to a totalitarian state where political dissent is undermined by surveillance programs (as the distopyan world created by Orwell in "1984"). Such a state may also be referred to as a surveillance state or an electronic police state.

In 2013, the practice of mass surveillance by world governments was called into question after Edward Snowden‘s 2013 global surveillance disclosure. Reporting based on documents, Snowden leaked to various media outlets triggered a debate about civil liberties and the right to privacy in the digital age.


The main whistleblowers


See also network

The overview of Mass Surveillance controversy to define topic confines, orient the subject of the analysis and delineate the survey area starting by a collective knowledge base.

Queries analysis

Analysis of Google results for six queries about mass surveillance. The speakers, what they say and the words used have been highlighted. The speakers debate around the reasons why mass surveillance is wrong.

A technical viewpoint

How the academic world masters the debate. Speakers, actors and topics.

NSA in the TV series

Exploring how the NSA, probably the most popular and discussed security agency in the world, is represented in the series' world and the type of scenery that is built around it.