Screening Surveillance


Screening Surveillance is a short film series that uses near future fiction storytelling based on research to highlight potential social and privacy issues that arise as a result of big data surveillance.

In all aspects of life, personal information is collected and analyzed by organizations that produce various outcomes—surveillance is not simply good or bad, helpful or harmful, but it is never neutral. These three short films were created to raise awareness about how large organizations use data and how these practices affect life chances and choices. We need to consider these implications, and critically examine the logics and practices within big data systems that underpin, enable, and accelerate surveillance.

These three short films speculating surveillance futures and the effects of deeply embedded and connected surveillant systems on our everyday lives were produced as part of a international multiphase project on Big Data Surveillance, by the Surveillance Studies Centre. Intended as public education tools to spark discussion and extend understandings of surveillance, trust, and privacy in the digital age, each film focuses on a different aspect of big data surveillance and the tensions that manifest when the human is interpreted by the machine.

Each film raises issues in our understandings of trust and surveilled relations:

  • Blaxites, highlights issues that arise when different data systems are connected.
  • A Model Employee examines data ownership and the need to earn a system’s trust.
  • Frames exposes the problems in trusting sensor data and facial recognition to interpret human behaviour.

Transcripts are available in English (Canada), French (Canada), Japanese, and Portuguese (Brazil) in YouTube.

Click the images below to watch the films...


Blaxites is a film that follows the story of a young woman whose celebratory social media post affects her access to vital medication. Her attempts to circumvent the system leads to even more dire consequences.

A Model Employee

In A Model Employee, to keep her day job at a local restaurant, an aspiring DJ has to wear a tracking wristband. As it tracks her life outside of work, she tries to fool the system, but a new device upgrade means trouble.


In Frames, a smart city tracks and analyzes a woman walking through the city. Things she does are interpreted and logged by the city system, but are they drawing an accurate picture of the woman?

This project has been funded by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC), under the Contributions Program (2018-2019); the views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the OPC.

This project was also supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada