The Surveillance Studies Centre
The Surveillance Studies Centre

David Lyon



David Lyon, FRSC

Director, Surveillance Studies Centre,
Queen's Research Chair in Surveillance Studies,
Professor of Sociology,
Professor of Law,
Queen’s University, Canada

David Lyon is Director of the Surveillance Studies Centre. He is also Queen's Research Chair in Surveillance Studies and Professor of Sociology and of Law. He was the Principal Investigator of The New Transparency Project from 2008-2015. He held a Killam Research Fellowship 2008-2010 for work on the globalization of ID systems.

Transparent Lives: Surveillance in Canada represents the culmination of The New Transparency team research project directed by Lyon. An accessible report in illustrated book form, it also appears as Vivre à nu: la surveillance au Canada (Athabasca University Press, May 2014).

Other recent books include Surveillance After Snowden(Polity, 2015), Liquid Surveillance (with Zygmunt Bauman; Polity 2012), Identifying Citizens: ID Cards as Surveillance (Polity 2009), Playing the Identity Card (co-edited with Colin J. Bennett, Routledge, 2008) and Surveillance Studies: An Overview (Polity 2007). He is also co-editor of Eyes Everywhere: The Global Growth of Camera Surveillance (with Aaron Doyle and Randy Lippert, 2011) and The International Handbook of Surveillance Studies (with Kirstie Ball and Kevin Haggerty, 2012). Lyon has been working on surveillance issues since the 1980s, when he discussed surveillance as one of the key issues of information-based societies in The Information Society: Issues and Illusions (Polity 1988). Since then he has been involved in many debates over information politics and policy in Canada and around the world as a result of his research and publications including The Electronic Eye (1994), Surveillance Society (2001) and Surveillance after September 11 (Polity 2003). He is a founding editor of the e-journal Surveillance & Society and has particular research interests in national ID cards, aviation security, surveillance ethics and in promoting the cross-disciplinary and international study of surveillance. He has received a number of awards:  Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Sociological Association Information and Communication Technology Section (2007), Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (2008), Outstanding Contribution Award from the Canadian Sociological Association (2012), election to the Academy of the Social Sciences (UK, 2013). 

Faculty website:

Online publications
Other relevant publications


Watch David Lyon's "Ideas" lecture, broadcast on ABC TV (Sydney, Australia) in April 2012 (49 mins.):


Surveillance After SnowdenSurveillance After Snowden, by David Lyon, Polity Press 2015

In 2013, Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA and its partners had been engaging in warrantless mass surveillance, using the internet and cellphone data, and driven by fear of terrorism under the sign of ’security’.

In this compelling account, surveillance expert David Lyon guides the reader through Snowden’s ongoing disclosures: the technological shifts involved, the steady rise of invisible monitoring of innocent citizens, the collusion of government agencies and for-profit companies and the implications for how we conceive of privacy in a democratic society infused by the lure of big data. Lyon discusses the distinct global reactions to Snowden and shows why some basic issues must be faced: how we frame surveillance, and the place of the human in a digital world.

Surveillance after Snowden is crucial reading for anyone interested in politics, technology and society.

Transparent Lives: Surveillance in Canada / Vivre a nu: La surveillance au CanadaTransparent Lives, Vivre a nu by The New Transparency Project, Athabasca University Press 2014

Co-edited with Colin Bennett, Kevin Haggerty and Val Steeves, this book is the collaborative work of The New Transparency: Surveillance and Social Sorting / La nouvelle transparence: surveillance et tri social, a multidisciplinary research team funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and is published in both official languages. Transparent Lives explains why and how surveillance is expanding—mostly unchecked—into every facet of our lives. Nine key surveillance trends are analyzed and discussed. The book questions whether or not the loss of control over our personal information is merely the price we pay for using social media and other forms of elec­tronic communication, or whether we should be wary of systems that make us visible, and thus vulnerable, to others as never before. Intended not only to inform but to make a difference, this book is deliberately aimed at a broad audience, including legislators and policymakers, journalists, civil liberties groups, educators, and, above all, the read­ing public. See for more details including the link to the free PDF.

Liquid Surveillance: A ConversationLiquid Surveillance, by David Lyon and Zygmunt Bauman, Polity 2012

Today the smallest details of our daily lives are tracked and traced more closely than ever before, and those who are monitored often cooperate willingly with the monitors. From London and New York to New Delhi, Shanghai and Rio de Janeiro, video cameras are a familiar and accepted sight in public places. Air travel now commonly involves devices such as body-scanners and biometric checks that have proliferated in the wake of 9/11. And every day Google and credit-card issuers note the details of our habits, concerns and preferences, quietly prompting customized marketing strategies with our active, all too often zealous cooperation.

In today’s liquid modern world, the paths of daily life are mobile and flexible. Crossing national borders is a commonplace activity and immersion in social media increasingly ubiquitous. Today’s citizens, workers, consumers and travellers are always on the move but often lacking certainty and lasting bonds. But in this world where spaces may not be fixed and time is boundless, our perpetual motion does not go unnoticed. Surveillance spreads in hitherto unimaginable ways, responding to and reproducing the slippery nature of modern life, seeping into areas where it once had only marginal sway.

In this book the surveillance analysis of David Lyon meets the liquid modern world so insightfully dissected by Zygmunt Bauman.  Is a dismal future of moment-by-moment monitoring closing in, or are there still spaces of freedom and hope? How do we realize our responsibility for the human beings before us, often lost in discussions of data and categorization? Dealing with questions of power, technology and morality, this book is a brilliant analysis of what it means to be watched – and watching – today.

Routledge Handbook of Surveillance Studies


Routledge Handbook of Surveillance Studies, co-edited by Kirstie Ball (The Open University Business School), Kevin Haggerty (University of Alberta) and David Lyon (Queen's University), Routledge 2012

The Routledge Handbook of Surveillance Studies is an international, accessible, definitive and comprehensive overview of the rapidly growing multi-disciplinary field of surveillance studies. The Handbook’s direct, authoritative style will appeal to a wide range of scholars and students in the social sciences, arts and humanities. This innovative Handbook explores the empirical, theoretical and ethical issues around surveillance and its use in daily life. With a collection of over forty essays from the leading names in surveillance studies, the Handbook takes a truly multi-disciplinary approach.

Eyes Everywhere

Eyes Everywhere: The Global Growth of Camera Surveillance, co-edited by Aaron Doyle (Carleton), Randy Lippert (Windsor) and David Lyon (Queen's), Routledge 2011

Eyes Everywhere provides the first international perspective on the development of camera surveillance. It scrutinises the quiet but massive expansion of camera surveillance around the world in recent years, focusing especially on Canada, the UK and the USA but also including less-debated but important contexts such as Brazil, China, Japan, Mexico, South Africa and Turkey. Containing both broad overviews and illuminating case-studies, including cameras in taxi-cabs and at mega-events such as the Olympics, the book offers a valuable oversight on the status of camera surveillance in the second decade of the 21st century.

The book will be fascinating reading for students and scholars of camera surveillance as well as policy makers and practitioners from the police, chambers of commerce, private security firms and privacy- and data-protection agencies.

Surveillance and Control in Israel/Palestine
Edited by Elia Zureik, David Lyon, and Yasmeen Abu-LabanSCIP-cover
Routledge, 2010

Surveillance is always a means to an end, whether that end is influence, management or entitlement. This book examines the several layers of surveillance that control the Palestinian population in Israel and the Occupied Territories, showing how they operate, how well they work, how they are augmented, and how in the end their chief purpose is population control. Showing how what might be regarded as exceptional elsewhere is here regarded as the norm, the book looks not only at the political economy of surveillance and its technological and military dimensions, but also at the ordinary ways that Palestinians in Israel and the occupied territories are affected in their everyday lives.

Surveillance, Privacy and the Globalization of Personal Information: International ComparisonsSurveillance, Privacy, and the Globalization of Personal Information: International Comparisons
Edited by Elia Zureik, L. Lynda Harling Stalker, Emily Smith, David Lyon, and Yolande E. Chan
McGill-Queen's University Press, 2010

The world has become familiar with the unprecedented growth of surveillance after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, but a comprehensive analysis of the public's opinion of how their privacy is being protected or invaded has been unavailable - until now. Surveillance, Privacy, and the Globalization of Personal Information reports the findings of an international survey of citizens' experiences with newly implemented security measures and their perceptions about privacy issues.


Identifying Citizens: ID Cards as Surveillance
by David Lyon
Polity Press, 2009Identifying Citizens

The early twenty-first century has witnessed a drive to establish national ID card systems in many countries. While some ID documents have existed for centuries, and have always been surveillant, new ones depend on electronic databases and, often on biometrics. This rachets-up exponentially their surveillance power, not least because the new systems also offer links with other databases than national registries. But even when these systems are presented as technical upgrades, they are not merely a technical matter. New IDs have a pre-history, are promoted by high-tech corporations and have new consequences for social sorting and for the exclusion of certain groups. Careful analysis of ID cards as surveillance shows how conventional assumptions about state-and-citizen need rethinking if just and fair systems of identification are to be developed.

Playing the Identity Card: Surveillance, Security and Identification in Global PerspectivePlaying the Identity Card
Edited by David Lyon and Colin Bennett
Routledge, 2008

In some ways a companion to Identifying Citizens, this book pulls together for the first time a number of important and illuminating essays on ID cards in today’s world. Unlike some collections, that focus only on Europe or North America, this one includes work on China, India, Japan, and South Africa, which provide stimulating counterpoints to already existing debates. It becomes clear that how ID cards are “played” depends on local historical, cultural and political conditions. Co-edited with Colin J. Bennett, Playing the Identity Card will also be linked to a web-site where further information and debates over IDs will be available.

Surveillance Studies: An Overview
by David Lyon
Polity Press, 2007 Surveillance Studies: An Overview

Rapid surveillance expansion in the past couple of decades has prompted the emergence of an academic field, “Surveillance Studies,” for which this book offers a succinct statement. Intended as a multi-disciplinary text suitable for a broad readership, it introduces new work being done around the world and suggests some constructive ways forward. It also makes a distinctive contribution by insisting for instance on the ambiguities of surveillance and on the need to go beyond “privacy” in considering modes of critique and resistance. The challenge to all is to consider how “those processing personal data do so responsibly, fairly and accountably.” Complete with a guide to further reading, an extensive book list and a glossary of essential terms, the book is also aware of its own involvement in surveillance – hinted at in the ironic title.

Theorizing Surveillance: The Panopticon and BeyondTheorizing Surveillance
Edited by David Lyon
Willan Publishing, 2006

Jeremy Bentham’s eighteenth century plan for a panopticon prison was picked up by Michel Foucault as the key to understanding modern disciplinary surveillance. But the concept has proved as controversial as it has illuminating. The authors involved in this collection show both how the panopticon may still prove helpful as a metaphor and how surveillance studies can only make progress when, as Haggerty says, the “walls are torn down.” As Zygmunt Bauman notes, “some of the most profound theoretical insights into the impact of surveillance on power relations and the shape of human interaction” are offered here.

Surveillance after September 11Surveillance after September 11
by David Lyon
Polity Press, 2003

If you have nothing to hide, it is often said, you have nothing to fear. This was a false assumption before September 11, 2001, and its falsity has become even more palpable and pernicious ever since. That’s the starting point of this book, which details the dramatic turns taken by surveillance after 9/11, contributing to what are probably long-term consequences. Intensified surveillance became more automated, integrated and globalized. But it was also more aligned with suspicion, secrecy and fear. Some possible signposts are offered for the ethical and political challenges thrown up by post-9/11 surveillance.

Surveillance Society: Monitoring Everyday LifeSurveillance Society
by David Lyon
Open University Press, 2001

The sequel to The Electronic Eye fills out the current picture by focusing on the everyday life dimensions of surveillance and on the quest for data on or from the body. The global picture also appears, with illustrations from North America, Europe and Asia in particular. Again, this book avoids the paranoid and the determinist, indicating some openings for critique and for hope. Lyon concludes that “it is the cultural grammar of today’s technologies that must be explored and contested. But we must look elsewhere for the means of confronting them than within the technologic of surveillance and its person-blind obsession with monitoring everyday life.”

Surveillance as Social Sorting: Privacy, Risk, and Digital Discrimination
Edited by David Lyon
Routledge 2002Surveillance as Social Sorting

Although “social sorting” is discussed in Surveillance Society, this book examines the idea from a number of empirical, theoretical and practical perspectives. The authors, from North America and Europe, demonstrate vividly how surveillance operates by classifying, categorizing and assigning value across a range of social sectors. The chapters expose such sorting in workplaces, at borders, in transit, in administration, in health-care, on the internet and on the street. They also propose means of confronting surveillant sorting in policy and politics.

The Electronic Eye: The Rise of Surveillance SocietyThe Electronic Eye
University of Minnesota Press, 1994

This book situates surveillance in the modern world. Michel Foucault did this classically, cleverly, but his history remained in a pre-electronic era. This book demonstrates that while surveillance is an ancient practice, it alters shape and significance not only with modernity in general but also in specific ways with new computing and communications technologies. The ambiguities of surveillance are explored in administrative, policing, employment and consumer contexts. But surveillance is neither static nor one-way. Modes of resistance, both philosophical and practical, are examined and alternative ways of embracing and confronting surveillance are assessed.


Computers, Surveillance, and Privacy
co-edited with Elia Zureik
University of Minnesota Press, 1996

Co-edited with surveillance scholar Elia Zureik, this is probably the first reader in surveillance studies – avant la lettre. New technologies are seen to boost surveillance capacities in striking ways and the concept of “privacy” is contested as an appropriate antidote to surveillance threats. The contributors comprise a classic who’s who in surveillance studies so there is theoretical and political debate as well as a strong sense of consensus about what are the key issues.

Other relevant publications

"Surveillance, Snowden and Big Data: Capacities, Consequences, Critique." Big Data & Society 1(1), 2014.

"After Snowden: Rethinking the Impact of Surveillance." (with Zygmunt Bauman, Didier Bigo, Paulo Esteves, Elspeth Guild, Vivienne Jabri, R.B.J. Walker) International Political Sociology. 8(2) 2014.

"Surveillance and the eye of God." Studies in Christian Ethics. 27(1), 2014.

“Liquid surveillance: The contribution of Zygmunt Bauman to surveillance studies” International Political Sociology. 4 (4) 2010.

“Being post-secular in the social sciences: Charles Taylor’s social imaginaries” New Blackfriars. 91, 2010.

“National IDs in a global world: Surveillance, security and citizenship” Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law. 42 (3) 2010.

"Biometrics, Identification and Surveillance". Bioethics, 22: 9, 2008; 499-508.

"Possibilities for post-secular sociology? On Charles Taylor, A Secular Age" (Review Essay). Cambridge MA: Harvard UP, 2007. Canadian Journal of Sociology 33, 3 (Fall 2008)

"Playing the ID card: understanding the significance of identity card systems", in Playing the Identity Card. Co-authored with Colin J. Bennett. London and New York: Routledge, 2008.

Le 11 septembre, la « guerre au terrorisme » et la surveillance généralisée; in La Guerre globale contre le terrorisme (sous la direction de Didier Bigo, Laurent Bonelli et Thomas Deltombe), Paris: LaDécouverte 2008 (translated from English)

"Filtering flows, friends, and foes: Global surveillance", in Mark Salter ed. Politics at the Airport, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008

"Surveillance, security, and social sorting: the emerging research agenda" International Criminal Justice Review, 17: 2 2007.

"National ID cards: Crime control, citizenship and social sorting" Policing, 1:1, 111-118; 2007

"Sociological Perspectives and Surveillance Studies: 'Slow Journalism' and the Critique of Social Sorting" (Review Essay) Contemporary Sociology 36: 2, 107-111, 2007

"Surveillance, power, and everyday life" in Robin Mansell, Chris Anthi Avgerou, Danny Quah and Roger Silverstone (eds.) The Oxford Hand Book of Information and Communication Technologies, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. Pp 449-472, 2007.

Murakami Wood, D., Lyon, D. and Abe, K., "Surveillance in Urban Japan: A Critical Introduction", Urban Studies 44(3): 551-568, 2007.

"Airport screening, surveillance and social sorting: Canadian responses to 9/11 in context" Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice, 48:3 2006.

"9/11, synopticon and scopophilia: Watching and being watched" in Kevin Haggerty and Richard Ericson (eds.) The New Politics of Surveillance and Visibility, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2006.

"The border is everywhere: ID cards, surveillance and the other" in Elia Zureik and Mark Salter (eds.) Global Surveillance and Policing: borders, security, identity , Cullompton: Willan, 2005.

"A sociology of information" in Craig Calhoun, Chris Rojek and Bryan Turner (eds.) The Sage Handbook of Sociology, London, Thousand Oaks and New Delhi: Sage, 2005.

"Technology vs. 'Terrorism': Circuits of City Surveillance Since September 11" in Cities, War and Terrorism, ed. Steve Graham, Blackwell, September 2004.

"Surveillance Technologies: Trends and Social Implications" in The Security Economy, Paris: OECD, 2004.

"Globalizing Surveillance: Comparative and Sociological Perspectives" International Sociology, 19:2, 2004.

"Airports as Data Filters: Converging Surveillance Systems after September 11", Information, Communication and Ethics in Society, 1(1) 2003.

"Surveillance in Cyberspace: The Internet, Personal Data, and Social Control", Queen's Quarterly, 109 (3) 2002.

"ID Cards: Social Sorting by Database", an 'Issue Brief' available at the website of the Oxford Internet Institute,, November 2004.

"Electronic identity cards and social classification" (with Felix Stalder), in Surveillance as Social Sorting, 2002, 77-93.

"Surveillance, Security and Social Sorting: Emerging Research Priorities", International Criminal Justice Review Vol. 17, No. 3, September 2007.

Surveillance Studies: Understanding Visibility, Mobility, and the Phenetic Fix, Surveillance and Society, 1(1) 2002, 1-7. Available at

"Facing the Future: Seeking Ethics for Everyday Surveillance" Ethics and Information Technology, 3(3) 2001.

"Cyberspace: Beyond Information Society" in John Armitage and Joanne Roberts, eds., Living with Cyberspace: Technology and Society in the Twenty-First Century, Athlone Press, 2001.

Surveillance Society: Monitoring Everyday Life, Open University Press, 2001. For further information click here:

"Beyond Cyberspace: Digital Dreams and Social Bodies", Information Technology, Education, and Society, 1(2), 2000.

"Simulant sorting in the city: and everyone is watching everyone", Arena, 49, 2000, 26-32.

"The net, the self, and the future: Manuel Castells' The Information Age", Prometheus, 3, 2000.

"Postmodernity" in Abigail Halcli, Gary Browning, and Frank Webster, eds., Theory and Society: Understanding the Present, MacMillan, 1999.

"The world-wide-web of surveillance: the Internet and off-world power flows", Information, Communication and Society, 1,1 1998, repr. in Hugh MacKay and Tim O'Sullivan, eds., The Media Reader: Continuity and Transformation, Sage 2000.

Postmodernity, (second edition, revised and expanded) Open University Press / University of Minnesota Press, 1999. For more information, click here:

"The end of privacy" Policy Options / Options Politiques, 18, 3, 1997.

'The Internet: beyond ethics?' Science and Christian Belief, 9,1 1997.

'Cyberspace sociality: controversies over computer-mediated communication' in Brian Loader ed., The Governance of Cyberspace, Routledge 1997.

On-line Publications

Lyon, D. et al, A Report on the Surveillance Society for the Information Commissioner by the Surveillance Studies Network, September 2006.

Surveillance Studies: Understanding Visibility, Mobility, and the Phenetic Fix, Surveillance and Society, 1(1) 2002, 1-7. Available at

Interview with Neural magazine (in Italian) intervista a Richard Stallman Società sorvegliate, intervista a David Lyon (autore di Surveillance Society) ( 2002.

"Surveillance after September 11", Sociological Research Online (63, 2001)

2000 The Vision Machine (article for Videoscopia, Spanish and English versions)

2000 Surveillance and privacy in a networked world (talk given for the Malaysia Information Technology Council)

2000 Surveillance and privacy in a networked world (talk given for the InfoComm Research Institute of NTT, Tokyo, Japanese language only)

1997 Surveillance Systems: towards an electronic panoptical society? Interview in Telepolis: politik und internet,