Surveillance, privacy and security: SurPRISE evaluates the acceptance of security technologies among Europe's citizens

The use of security technologies in Europe is on the raise. But what does the public think about the trade-off between privacy and safety?

Do we need to accept infringements of privacy and other fundamental liberties for more security? At least for European policy makers the answer appears to be a clear yes. The SurPRISE project conducted a critical examination of the relation between security and privacy, putting the citizens’ perspective into the centre of analysis.

SurPRISE explored and questioned in how far intrusions of our privacy are really necessary to achieve a higher level of security. For politicians and scientists the fact that more security often means less privacy is a natural trade-off. Hence we simply would have to accept that this curtails our basic right to privacy. But what if the technologies themselves pose a security risk for our democratic society? The project aimed at finding alternatives that leave our basic rights untouched.

Citizens helped to develop recommendations

In a further step, the conclusions of this analysis were discussed in substantial participatory activities involving more than 2500 citizens from nine European countries. Questions asked included how far the public agrees with this “trade-off” of privacy for security, and what other factors influence public opinion on the subject.

Based on the results of the research SurPRISE developed recommendations for security measure and technologies, aiming to contribute to formulating future security policy consistent with basic rights. The project, coordinated by ITA, was a collaboration between eleven partner organisations such as science academies, data privacy protection agencies, private and public research institutions, institutes of technology assessment and universities.


This project has received funding from the European Union´s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement no. 285492.

Today, surveillance, privacy and security issues are closely related