Lizzie Coles-Kemp, Alf Zugenmaier, Makayla Lewis


As governments increasingly deliver services over the Internet, the opportunities
for monitoring and surveillance of society increase. In public services to
support the vulnerable, such as welfare, monitoring and surveillance functionality
is often regarded by system designers as important components in defences against
fraud and system misuse. However, the responses from the participants in this study
demonstrate the potential difficulty of deploying such approaches when the systems
themselves are perceived as working against not with the communities and indicate
that supportive social networks are a prerequisite for these the technological systems
to be secure. We explored the case of the use of the Internet to deliver parts of the
UK welfare system from the perspective of an economically and socially deprived
community in the North East of England. The findings show that, in the views of
the research participants, reliance on technological security mechanisms makes the
underlying administrative processes less rather than more secure. The findings also
show that a focus on system security and monitoring rather than benevolence and
user empathy is a barrier to the successful delivery of ‘digital by default’ services and
can increase the overall feelings of insecurity in everyday life for service users. Our
conclusion is that rather than being regarded as a technical system, such a service
is better conceptualised as a social system with technological elements embedded
within it.We therefore also argue that if such technological systems are to be secure,
then the service design must also support the social networks that interact with these
systems. We further argue that service providers must work with individual communities
to develop and support the social networks in order for the technological
security controls to be effective.

Date: 2014
Published: Digital Enlightenment Yearbook 2014
Publisher: IOS Press
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Categories: Publications