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The counter‐control revolution: “silent control” of individuals through dataveillance systems

Yohko Orito (Faculty of Law and Letters, Ehime University, Matsuyama, Japan)

Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society

ISSN: 1477-996X

Article publication date: 1 March 2011




The purpose of this paper is to examine the social impacts of “silent control” of individuals by means of the architecture of dataveillance systems. It addresses the question whether individuals, in reality, can actually determine autonomously the kinds of information that they can acquire and convey in today's dataveillance environments. The paper argues that there is a risk of a “counter‐control revolution” that may threaten to reverse the “control revolution” described by Shapiro.


Using relevant business cases, this paper describes the nature of dataveillance systems, then it examines situations in which the intellectual freedom of individuals is silently constrained by the architecture of such systems. This analysis leads to the conclusion that individuals in today's information society face the risk of a “counter‐control revolution” that can threaten their intellectual freedom. Given this troubling conclusion, the present paper addresses the challenges of establishing socially acceptable dataveillance systems.


Intentionally or unintentionally, the architecture of dataveillance systems determines what kinds of information an individual can access or receive. This means that social sorting occurs based upon the processing of personal information by dataveillance systems; and, as a result, individuals' intellectual freedom could be constrained without their realising that it is happening. Under this circumstance, the ability of individuals to control the transmission and flow of information, recently made possible by the “control revolution”, already has been compromised by business organisations that operate dataveillance systems. It is business organisations, and not the individuals themselves, that control the kinds of information that individuals are able to acquire and transmit.


This paper provides an analysis of social risks caused by the architecture of dataveillance systems, and it introduces the concept of a “counter‐control revolution”. These contributions provide a good starting point to evaluate the social impacts of dataveillance systems and to establish better, more socially acceptable dataveillance systems.



Orito, Y. (2011), "The counter‐control revolution: “silent control” of individuals through dataveillance systems", Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society, Vol. 9 No. 1, pp. 5-19.



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Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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