Out of Proportion? On Surveillance and the Proportionality Requirement

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 23 (1):181-199 (2020)
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Abstract

In this article, we critically scrutinize the principle of proportionality when used in the context of security and government surveillance. We argue that McMahan’s distinction from just warfare between narrow proportionality and wide proportionality can generally apply to the context of surveillance. We argue that narrow proportionality applies more or less directly to cases in which the surveilled is liable and that the wide proportionality principle applies to cases characterized by ‘collateral intrusion’. We argue, however, that a more demanding criterion than the lesser-evil justification that wide proportionality frequently entails is necessary in cases characterized by intentional intrusion upon non-liable individuals. The distinction between foreseeing and intending intrusion into the lives of individuals who are not liable has not previously been specifically addressed in discussions concerning surveillance ethics. This specification is thus increasingly important due to the general growing tendency for adherence to the precautionary principle and policies aimed at anticipating criminal acts before they are committed. Preventive surveillance of non-liable actors is considered an important instrument for obtaining this aim and thus calls for moral scrutiny in terms of permissibility and proportionality. We suggest the concept ‘wide proportionality +’ which applies to cases of intentional intrusion of non-liable individuals.

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Citations of this work

Technology as Terrorism: Police Control Technologies and Drone Warfare.Jessica Wolfendale - 2021 - In Scott Robbins, Alastair Reed, Seamus Miller & Adam Henschke (eds.), Counter-Terrorism, Ethics, and Technology: Emerging Challenges At The Frontiers Of Counter-Terrorism,. Springer. pp. 1-21.
Government Surveillance, Privacy, and Legitimacy.Peter Königs - 2022 - Philosophy and Technology 35 (1):1-22.

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References found in this work

Reasons and Persons.Derek Parfit - 1984 - Oxford University Press.
Moral Dimensions: Permissibility, Meaning, Blame.Thomas Scanlon - 2008 - Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Reasons and Persons.Joseph Margolis - 1986 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 47 (2):311-327.
Proportionality in the Morality of War.Thomas Hurka - 2005 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 33 (1):34-66.
Harmless Wrongdoing.Joel Feinberg - 1988 - Oxford University Press USA.

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