Past eventMembers

Should a Government Spy on its Citizens?

3 April 2017 - 18:00 to 19:00

Chatham House, London


Professor Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones, Honorary Fellow in History, University of Edinburgh; Author, We Know All About You. The Story of Surveillance in Britain and America



It could be argued that governments have public order and national security interests that necessitate reasonable surveillance of their citizens. Many measures, such as border controls, issuing passports and CCTV in public areas, are considered more benign and provoke little controversy. However, as the world has become increasingly complex and the threat of terrorism more pressing, can governments and security agencies justify engaging in covert and indiscriminate mass surveillance such as email scanning, phone tapping, the collection of communication meta-data and the hacking of in-home smart devices?

Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones will make the case that governments have a moral duty to spy on their citizens in the interests of national security and the harm that state surveillance currently inflicts on civil liberties has been exaggerated. He will argue that while there have to be restrictions in place to ensure against governments abusing their power, much more concerning is the lack of effective scrutiny on surveillance undertaken by private companies, particularly as governments are increasingly using private firms to gather data on their citizens.

This event will be followed by a reception.