Accepting surveillance – An increased sense of security after terror strikes?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Over the last two decades, several large terror attacks have led to increased discussion of the use of different surveillance technologies. The use of novel technologies for pre-emptive security and surveillance has been discussed and criticized academically, but few studies have addressed the public. Studies that target the public tend to assume an oversimplified trade-off between privacy and security, i.e. how much privacy a person is willing to yield to attain greater security. We used three large surveys of random samples from the Swedish population to study public attitudes to a number of surveillance technologies. The last survey took place shortly after a terror attack in Stockholm, and an aim was to see how this affected acceptance. The main differences between 2009 and 2017 were that the demand for transparency (i.e. public scrutiny) had increased dramatically, and that the notion of risk posed by the new technologies had diminished. Beyond this, changes in attitudes were small. Technologies were perceived as contributing to making society safer – albeit not decisively. Also, acceptance was not only influenced by what data was collected, but also by who was collecting and owning it. In public discussions about security, two things are often assumed: that an increase of hard security measures will increase societal security, and that citizens are willing to do a trade-off between privacy and security. We find that this is not the case. Instead, citizens weigh the pros and cons of surveillance and also distinguish between different forms of surveillance.


External organisations
  • Karolinska Institutet
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Social Sciences Interdisciplinary


  • Privacy, Risk perception, Surveillance technology, Terrorism, Transparency
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)383-387
Number of pages5
JournalSafety Science
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Dec 1
Publication categoryResearch