Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 156, Issue 1, pp 15–19 | Cite as

Trust in Surveillance: A Reply to Etzioni

  • Glen WhelanEmail author


Etzioni has recently proposed that the success of Internet enabled commerce is surprising due to what I label the “trust in strangers” problem. In here responding to Etzioni, I argue that the “trust in strangers” problem effectively dissolves once it is recognized that current manifestations of Internet commerce are not associated with high levels of anonymity, but rather, with high levels of surveillance. In doing so, I first outline how data capitalism and security considerations have contributed to Internet surveillance being close to ubiquitous. Following this, I differentiate between three types of surveillance—i.e. top-down, bottom-up, networked—that many people who digitally connect rely upon. In concluding, I emphasize my basic argument. Namely, that it is “trust in surveillance”, rather than “trust in strangers”, that supports current manifestations of commerce online.


Internet Surveillance Trust 



I would like to thank Ed Freeman for inviting me to make this reply. I would also like to thank the anonymous reviewer for their very helpful and critically constructive comments on a prior draft.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The author declares no conflict of interest.

Human and animal rights

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Visiting Scholar Schulich School of BusinessYork UniversityTorontoCanada

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