I’ve had a book chapter, titled “Beyond ATIP: New Methods for Researching State Surveillance,” published in Access To Information And Social Justice: Critical Research Strategies for Journalists, Scholars, and Activists. The book was edited by Jamie Brownlee and Kevin Walby and is available for purchase at a variety of brick and mortar, as well as online, book vendors. The book combines political and practical aspects of Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) research in a single volume. In addition to exposing how ATIP-related documents have led to major, nation-affecting, news stories the book helps Canadian citizens use and navigate the federal access to information processes.
My contribution argued the ATIP process must be supplemented when investigating particularly secretive government practices. I drew from work that I conducted at the Citizen Lab as part of the Telecommunications Transparency Project, specifically focusing on activities undertaken between January-August 2014.
This chapter focuses on the challenges of studying the difficult and often obscure issues of Canadian state and corporate surveillance. Researchers routinely turn to Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) requests to cut through this obscurity, but the laws are often too weak, too poorly enforced, or too full of deliberate loopholes and blind spots to provide comprehensive awareness about surveillance. Thus, additional methodological techniques are needed to pierce the veil of government secrecy. But what kinds of techniques can be successful, what are their limitations, and how effective are they? How can researchers better understand the kinds of surveillance programs that the federal government is conducting now, and has conducted in the past? I begin by discussing the merits and drawbacks of federal ATIP legislation, a legal tool that is routinely used to learn about the scope and dimensions of state surveillance. In light of the ATIP regime’s relative limits in revealing the contours of federal surveillance, I discuss how researchers can use a variety of political, regulatory, and legal techniques to increase government accountability and corporate transparency. Importantly, the methodological proposals I assess have the effect of adding as opposed to replacing data received under ATIP. By adopting an expanded set of methodological techniques, researchers can better fill out and make sense of the often limited revelations that emerge from the ATIP process.
Image credit: Book cover from Jamie Brownlee and Kevin Walby (Eds.). http://arpbooks.org/books/detail/access-to-information-and-social-justice