ARP 2023

Partnership with the Geneva Graduate Institute's Applied Research Project (ARP)

For two years, the Edgelands Institute was a partner organisation of the Geneva Graduate Institute's Applied Research Project (ARP).

ARPs involve small groups of researchers working with partner organisations to conduct policy-relevant research on a variety of topics, including issues related to conflict and security.

This partnership has resulted in two reports on the use of surveillance technologies in cities for security purposes.

City Power in a Time of Urban Digitalized Security

This report discusses the role of city governments in influencing the deployment of surveillance technologies in their cities over the last 10 years. The study focuses on three case cities - London, Beirut and Singapore - and uses a combination of theories of local autonomy and multi-level governance to categorise the different types of power. It uses an innovative method of analysis that compares five categories of power - economic, structural, expert, moral and discursive - and measures the relative importance of each category using a checklist of indicators.

The research shows that different cities relied to varying degrees on different forms of power to influence the use of surveillance technology. For example, London relied most heavily on structural power, while Singapore scored highly in almost every category except expert power. Beirut's municipal government, on the other hand, scored relatively low in all categories except expert power, due to its formal institutional dependence on the national Ministry of Interior.

However, the study also highlights the contextual nature of the findings and cautions against drawing any general conclusions. Further research is needed to understand the role of city governments in deploying surveillance technologies and the forms of power they mobilise to influence them.

Researchers:  Sahil Jain, Jonathan Thrall, Alberto Santarpia, Daniel Haltmeier

Governing and Surveilling: Towards an Auditing Framework for Algorithmic Accountability in Urban Surveillance Technology

Algorithmic surveillance, which involves the use of computer power in surveillance, has become increasingly common in urban areas. This approach exacerbates the trade-off between security and individual rights, promising to be more cost-effective and improve public security, while also being more pervasive and intrusive. However, little research has been conducted to establish effective oversight frameworks to ensure the responsible use of algorithmic surveillance technologies.

This report aims to address this gap in the literature by examining the elements that should be included in an algorithmic auditing framework to assess the responsible use of algorithmic tools in urban surveillance. To do this, the researchers analysed and compared 17 existing auditing frameworks for surveillance, algorithms and artificial intelligence, and developed a best practice framework for algorithmic surveillance technologies (AST). They then applied this framework to the algorithmic surveillance used at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. Their findings suggest that while there is no official requirement to conduct an audit, several elements would satisfy an audit according to their best practice framework.The proposed audit framework offers a promising approach to ensuring the responsible implementation of AST in urban contexts.

Researchers: Alexandre Hünenberger, Iris Raith, Samuel Smith

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