The effectiveness of surveillance technology: What intelligence officials are saying

Michelle Cayford*, Wolter Pieters

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
3006 Downloads (Pure)


In recent years, Western governments have come under sharp criticism for their use of surveillance technology. They have been accused of sweeping up massive amounts of information without evidence of the technologies being effective in improving security. The view of critics is clear, but what do intelligence officials themselves say? This paper analyzes statements of intelligence officials in the U.S. and U.K. from 2006 to 2016, examines what criteria officials use in their discourse on effectiveness, and investigates how considerations of cost and proportionality factor into the equation. It identifies seven measures of effectiveness in the statements of intelligence officials, and finds that cost, though rarely discussed, is the driver behind formalized evaluations of surveillance programs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)88-103
Number of pages16
JournalInformation Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2018


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