Ethical Theory and Moral Practice

, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp 187–207 | Cite as

The Relative Moral Risks of Untargeted and Targeted Surveillance

  • Katerina HadjimatheouEmail author


Is surveillance that is targeted towards specific individuals easier to justify than surveillance that targets broad categories of people? Untargeted surveillance is routinely accused of treating innocent people as suspects in ways that are unfair and of failing to pursue security effectively. I argue that in a wide range of cases untargeted surveillance treats people less like suspects than more targeted alternatives. I also argue that it often deters unwanted behaviour more effectively than targeted alternatives, including profiling. In practice, untargeted surveillance is likely to be least costly morally and most efficient when used as a means of enforcing the rules of a specific activity or institution. Targeted alternatives are likely to be more appropriate means of law enforcement.


Surveillance Privacy Stigmatisation Discrimination Reciprocity 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Security Ethics GroupPolitics and International Studies, University of WarwickCoventryUK

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