Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2439

Article | Open Access

“Veillant Panoptic Assemblage”: Mutual Watching and Resistance to Mass Surveillance after Snowden

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Abstract:  The Snowden leaks indicate the extent, nature, and means of contemporary mass digital surveillance of citizens by their intelligence agencies and the role of public oversight mechanisms in holding intelligence agencies to account. As such, they form a rich case study on the interactions of “veillance” (mutual watching) involving citizens, journalists, intelligence agencies and corporations. While Surveillance Studies, Intelligence Studies and Journalism Studies have little to say on surveillance of citizens’ data by intelligence agencies (and complicit surveillant corporations), they offer insights into the role of citizens and the press in holding power, and specifically the political-intelligence elite, to account. Attention to such public oversight mechanisms facilitates critical interrogation of issues of surveillant power, resistance and intelligence accountability. It directs attention to the veillant panoptic assemblage (an arrangement of profoundly unequal mutual watching, where citizens’ watching of self and others is, through corporate channels of data flow, fed back into state surveillance of citizens). Finally, it enables evaluation of post-Snowden steps taken towards achieving an equiveillant panoptic assemblage (where, alongside state and corporate surveillance of citizens, the intelligence-power elite, to ensure its accountability, faces robust scrutiny and action from wider civil society).

Keywords:  counterveillance, equiveillance, intelligence agencies, journalism, public oversight mechanisms, Snowden leaks, sousveil-lance, surveillance, univeillance, veillance



© Vian Bakir. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.