SurPRISE (2012-2015)

Surveillance, Privacy and Security: A large scale participatory assessment of criteria and factors determining acceptability and acceptance of security technologies in Europe


SurPRISE is a European project which aims to identify the needs of citizens with regard to security, and to determine the extent to which and under what conditions they are prepared to surrender some elements of their privacy for the sake of surveillance technologies. While politicians and scientists seem to regard it as acceptable that greater security is achieved at the expense of fundamental rights, the SurPRISE project looks at how far citizens share this conception and if other elements come into the equation, such as cultural or social factors. 

Within the framework of this project, TA-SWISS has organised a citizens’ consultation in 2013. An identical consultation has taken place simultaneously in all other European countries represented in the SurPRISE project.

Opportunities and risks of surveillance technologies 

The spread of surveillance technologies is constant. As they  become more effective they can combat the growth of petty crime, terrorism, cybercrime and tax fraud. Advances in the IT field, as well as in the areas of reconnaissance and biometrics, mean that technologies can be perfected, constantly pushing back the limits of the fight against crime. But these technologies can also pose a threat to the privacy of individuals, especially as they apply pre-emptively to everyone. Governments are therefore compelled to find a balance between the legitimate security needs of society on the one hand and the right of individuals to privacy on the other. It is an exercise which calls for a complex weighing up of interests and which involves many different factors.

Why TA-SWISS is participating in the «SurPRISE» project

In Switzerland, surveillance technologies and the related question of privacy protection are highly debated. One thinks in particular of the ongoing discussions about video surveillance, employed by numerous organisations in the public and the private sector. The introduction of the biometric passport has also given rise to serious controversy, and has underlined the international dimension of security issues. Cybercrime is another concern, and network surveillance is becoming a crucial element of national security.

The SurPRISE project plans to organise citizen consultations in nine European countries focussing on how individuals regard the tensions that might exist between surveillance technologies on the one hand and protection of privacy on the other. By taking part in such a project, TA-SWISS hopes to contribute to the political debate in Switzerland surrounding security policies by analysing the conditions under which Swiss citizens are prepared to accept the use of surveillance methods, and to what extent the debate surrounding questions about surveillance, private and security corresponds to that in other European countries.

To learn more 

EU project website


SurPRISE Policy Brief

SurPRISE Factsheet – About the Project

Information package


Smart CCTV

Deep Packet Inspection

Smart Location Tracking


Project coordination

Institut für Technologiefolgen-Abschätzung-ITA. Johan Cas

International project consortium

Project management TA-SWISS

  • Dr. Danielle Bütschi, TA-SWISS, Project manager
  • Dr. Sergio Bellucci, TA-SWISS
  • Dilini-Sylvie Jeanneret, TA-SWISS

Advisory Group

  • Dr. Bruno Baeriswyl, Data Protection and Information Commissioner, Zurich; TA-SWISS Steering Committee.
  • Dr. Sami Coll, Department of sociology, University of Geneva.
  • Dr. Francisco Klauser, Geography Institute, University of Neuchâtel.
  • Prof. Katharina Prelicz-Huber, President vpod, TA-SWISS Steering Committee, Zurich.
  • Philipp Stüssi, The Federal Data Protection and Information Commissioner FDPIC, Bern

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