12 Sep 2012

Launch of first surveillance research centre in Europe

The first centre in Europe to research the effects of surveillance on society will be launched at The Open University and the University of Stirling next week (18-20 September).

CRISP - the Centre for Research into Information, Surveillance and Privacy - will study information technologies, how they are used to gather information about people’s daily activities and the privacy implications for individuals as they go about their daily lives.

The Open University launch of CRISP, which will take place on the Milton Keynes campus on 20 September, will include a Question Time-style panel discussion on The Future of Information, Surveillance and Privacy Research whereby Professor Clive Norris, Sheffield University, Anna Minton, Author of ‘Ground Control’ and Journalist, Dr Ben Hayes, Statewatch and Jonathan Bamford, Information Commissioners Office will discuss the issue.

The Open University’s Business School expert on surveillance, Dr Kirstie Ball, one of the founders of CRISP said:
“We are moving into a surveillance intensive age. Data about citizens are collected from social media, loyalty cards and online purchasing and are now used as much to sell groceries as they are for national security. Understanding the impact of these changes is an important issue for our times. Individual privacy and security, new forms of discrimination and the erosion of social trust are just a few areas of concern.”

CRISP, which will extend knowledge of these vital contemporary issues is a joint initiative between the University of Stirling, the Open University and the University of Edinburgh. It is an interdisciplinary centre bringing together expertise from social sciences, the arts, humanities, information science and other relevant fields.
Jonathan Bamford, Head of Strategic Liaison at the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said: “The ICO does much to ensure proper scrutiny of developments in surveillance, specifically ensuring compliance with the data protection law we regulate. We see the new Centre as a very welcome development with a vital role to play in the wider context. Its creation should help ensure that vital academic expertise is fostered, marshalled and brought to bear on some of the most challenging social policy questions of the day.”

CRISP aims to become one of the leading research and knowledge exchange centres in Europe, studying the many dimensions of the surveillance society and its consequences. CRISP also incorporates the Scottish Privacy Forum - a group of Scottish privacy, data protection and information professionals.

Journalists are welcome to attend the launch and should contact the Media Relations team on 07901 515 891 or for a copy of the launch programme and to register.

About the Open University:
The Open University (OU) is the largest academic institution in the UK and a world leader in flexible distance learning. Since it began in 1969, the OU has taught more than 1.7 million students and has more than 264,000 current students, including 18,000 overseas.
The OU has been one of the top three UK universities for student satisfaction in the National Student Survey every year since the survey began in 2005. In 2010/11 it had a 93 per cent satisfaction rating.
Over 70% of students are in full-time or part-time employment, and four out of five FTSE 100 companies have sponsored staff to take OU courses.
In the UK’s latest Research Assessment Exercise (RAE 2008) the Open University was ranked in the top third of UK higher education institutions. More than 50% of OU research was assessed in the RAE as internationally excellent, with 14% as world leading.
Regarded as Britain’s major e-learning institution, the OU is a world leader in developing technology to increase access to education on a global scale. Its vast ‘open content portfolio’ includes free study units on OpenLearn, which has had more than 21 million visits, and materials on iTunes U, which has recorded over 50 million downloads.
The OU has a 41 year partnership with the BBC which has moved from late-night lectures in the 1970s to prime-time programmes such as Frozen Planet, Bang Goes the Theory, James May’s Big Ideas and The Money Programme.

Notes to Editors
For further information about Dr Kirstie Ball and her research, visit:

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