From Big Brother to terrorism; understanding people’s perceptions of surveillance, privacy and Islam

Zsuzsanna Dobrontei

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Freedom of expression has a critical role in modern democracies and consequently the influence of social media on the expression of national and political identities is growing. In light of recent revelations regarding the extent of surveillance, issues of privacy have come to the forefront of attention. In the first exploratory study using interpretive phenomenological analysis of individual interviews, British citizens' views on surveillance and its different domains, their thoughts, beliefs and concerns about privacy in general and online were explored. Trust in the British Government, its services and also in online companies (e.g., Google) in regard to surveillance was also investigated. Deriving from knowledge gained from Study 1, Study 2 was designed using a quantitative approach. Predictors of both online and Facebook privacy concerns were assessed, such as personality traits, self-esteem, and attitudes towards openness and trust. In another quantitative study, the relationship between British identity and system justification, perceived need, perceived benefits, and concerns about government surveillance were examined (Study 3). Recent terrorist events provided the opportunity to investigate individuals’ realistic and symbolic threat perceptions in the aftermath of the attacks as well as their support or rejection of surveillance, and attitudes towards Islam. In Study 4, in the aftermath of the 2015 Paris attacks, using thematic analysis of an online forum discussion, people’s attitudes towards the proposed implementation of more invasive surveillance measures by the British Government were investigated. Finally, in Study 5, content analysis of tweets after the 2015 Westminster attack explored people’s attitudes towards Islam on Twitter and network analysis was utilised to identify and gain insight into groups within the network structure. The body of work promotes a new way to conceptualise attitudes toward surveillance and privacy that recognizes how they can intertwine with social identity and threat perceptions in complex and sometimes unexpected ways.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Cinnirella, Marco, Supervisor
  • Jansen , Vincent A.A., Supervisor
  • Bryden, John, Supervisor
Thesis sponsors
Award date1 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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