Fundamentally insecure: surveillance, encryption, and the problem of anonymity

Robert Thornton-Lee (PhD student, School of Sociology and Social Policy) will be presenting ‘Fundamentally Insecure: Surveillance, Encryption, and the Problem of Anonymity’ as part of the SSP lunchtim


High profile events in recent years including the global surveillance disclosures of 2013, terrorist attacks across Western Europe since 2015, and the passing of the controversial Investigatory Powers Act 2016, have reignited discussion around the role of surveillance in everyday life.

In recent years this discussion has turned to the use of easily accessible technologies and communication platforms that, through robust encryption standards, anonymise and conceal user activity. For the intelligence and security services these platforms present many challenges and generate anxieties over individuals ‘going dark’ and being out of their reach.

For privacy rights activists and technology companies, these platforms are necessary for the protection of individuals and their freedom of expression. This contestation has led to a revitalising of the ‘crypto-wars’ of the 1990s.  Through an examination of the use and function of anonymity in everyday life, the relationship between anonymity and the ‘second ‘crypto-war’, as well as the mobilisation of the mask for political protest, this presentation will explore the construction of anonymity as a category of risk and question the degree to which anonymity is being pushed out of social and political life.

All welcome. Booking not required.

Location details

Social Sciences Building
University of Leeds

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