Big Data & Surveillance: Hype, Commercial Logics & New Intimate Spheres

Kirstie Ball and William Webster (Guest Lead Editors)

Big data analytics promises to help companies and public sector service providers anticipate consumer and service user behaviours so they can be targeted in greater depth.  The attempts made by these organisations to connect analytically with users raises questions about whether surveillance, and its associated ethical and rights based concerns, are intensified.  The articles in this special issue explore this question from both organizational and user perspectives. They highlight the hype which firms use to drive consumer, employee and service user engagement with analytics within both private and public spaces. Further, they explore extent to which, through big data, there is an attempt to expand surveillance into the emotional registers of domestic, embodied experience. Collectively, the papers reveal a fascinating nexus between the much vaunted potential of analytics, the data practices themselves and newly configured intimate spheres which have been drawn into the commercial value chain. Together, they highlight the need for conceptual and regulatory innovation so that analytics in practice may be better understood and critiqued.