LOSS is a multidisciplinary academic research project addressing the interrelationship between societal security and law in the context of surveillance. Today, security occupies a major part of politics, regulation and legislation and is commonly pursued through the definition and identification of risks and threats such as terrorism, climate change, armed conflict or economic crisis, amongst many others. Contemporary security hence does not refer solely or even predominantly to foreign policies with military connotations but to various forms of everyday life. Law and legislative processes, from national constitutional to international rule-making, are increasingly facing security related demands. New security laws are enacted and existing legal frameworks are amended or abolished in order to meet alleged new security needs. As a consequence, law is a tool, but also a battleground to balance different security interests and to determine, how much interferences into societies are acceptable and justifiable for security reasons.
LOSS has three major objectives:
- It will systematically map and analyze multi-level securitization as it appears in Finnish legislative practices designed to legalize security measures.
- It will assess how the various securitization discourses as well as the European and international standards have influenced these practices especially in the context of surveillance.
It will critically evaluate whether the national laws on security comply with the constitutional and international standards that set legally binding limits to political decision making in the area of individual rights.
The Project’s Key Narratives
LOSS will focus on the modes of production and the legal limits of the cluster of extreme contemporary uses of public power as well as on its democratically and constitutionally problematic forms of justification. As such, its basic research frame is situated at the center of already existing research on three core global narratives with a strong bearing on the state of contemporary law and politics: multi-level securitization, technologized security and liberal constitutionalism.
In the legal sphere, a transformative trend has been the rise in both the scope and the presumed normative weight of security as a principal justification of governmental authority both on the national and international level. This has partly been made possible by the justificatory turn of individualizing the originally collective security interests, so that the security argument with its strong persuasive appeal has been rephrased in terms of the pressing need to protect the right to security and the rights of the potential victims in general. Furthermore, a new ‘balance school’ has emerged with its claim that the contemporary scale and nature of terrorism and serious crime in general justifies striking a new balance between security and rights so that respecting these rights should often be seen as resulting in real costs in the form of reduced security.
The second key narrative influencing law and politics of contemporary societal security originates in the development of new technical capabilities enabling global mass surveillance and other forms of control of all individuals through personal data intensive means.A technological ‘revolution’ has produced an array of new methods and tools increasing the capabilities of surveillance and security systems. This is driven by massive improvements in sensor technology (e.g. high- definition video), the continuous miniaturization of electronic surveillance devices (invisible CCTV, tracking devices), and the omnipresence and array of small data collection and networked devices (from mobile phones, over TV’s to Smart-meters). In addition the continuing sophistication of analytical tools help coping with the vast data flows while automation and prediction (facial recognition technology, automated number plate recognition amongst many others) dramatically improve previously time-consuming manual analyses. Furthermore, large storage capacities allow for large data retention. All these separate technological improvements go hand in hand with a more a more networked society in which electronic and networked devices permeate daily life, therewith producing yet another source for security analytics and even prediction technologies.
As a result, and already reflecting the conflict between new capabilities and old law, the courts in different jurisdictions are increasingly faced with questions of the legality of the production, acquisition and employment of modern security and surveillance technologies through public and private security actors.
Liberal Constitutional Limits to Securitization and Surveillance
The conflict between technically capable securitized world and the law has warranted the third narrative of liberal constitutionalism with its basic claim that security must be pursued in accordance with the rule of law and fundamental and human rights. This line of thinking demands that all interferences with fundamental and human rights must be assessed rigorously and systematically in light of a legal ‘limitations test’ for the purpose of ensuring that interferences serve a legitimate aim, are prescribed by the law in a precise and foreseeable manner, and are both necessary and proportionate in nature, and do not violate the essence of a right.
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