Tag Archives: Surveillance

The beautiful game? Violence, security and safety at Euro 2016

Kate Whiston, University of Nottingham

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Regardless of whether you have been following the football or not, you won’t have been able to escape the disappointing reports of crowd violence at this year’s Uefa European Championships in France. Since the turn of the century, sports mega-events like the Euros have come under the academic radar, with research drawing attention to issues surrounding surveillance, security, governance, and control (Foucault, eat your heart out!). Geographers in particular have been keen to kick off enquiries into the inherently spatial nature of both surveillance and violence across a variety of spaces. One such paper, published almost a year ago, is Fonio and Pisapia’s (2015) investigation into security and surveillance at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. Whilst this paper considered the approaches to surveillance – and their impacts on the community – in Johannesburg, a formerly hazardous city in a developing country, there are some striking comparisons which can be drawn with the disruption at this year’s Euros.

England fans were involved in some of the earliest instances of unruly behaviour in France. Before the tournament had even begun, fighting broke out between England fans and locals in Marseille, causing French riot police to step in. Furthermore, in the build-up to England’s first group game against Russia, Police were forced to use tear gas and a water-cannon, when English, French, and Russian supporters clashed. On the day of the much-anticipated game, the violence continued, this time inside the stadium. Russian fans set off flares during the game and, after scoring a last-minute equaliser, proceeded to charge at English supporters, forcing some to climb over fences to escape.

What is worrying is that this was not an isolated incident. Reports of violence at this year’s tournament have been disturbingly common; fans from Northern Ireland, Hungary, Turkey, Croatia, Belgium, and Portugal, just to name a few, have been charged for violent and racist behaviour. Uefa have tried to curb violence by fining the national football associations involved, and has also threatened clubs with expulsion from the tournament. But what is being done by the French authorities to deal with the violent scenes? And how does their approach relate to the precautions taken for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa which, despite concerns about the safety of fans and players, was praised for being a safe tournament for all involved?

The terror attacks in Paris in November, in which the Stade de France was one of the targets, meant that this year’s Euros had a heightened level of security. The French packed their defence, employing 90,000 security staff (42,000 national police officers, 30,000 local gendarmes, and 10,000 soldiers) and 12,000 stewards, and erecting 42km of temporary fences (26km of high fences and 16km low barriers). Security checks were undertaken on entry to every stadium, with a long list of prohibited items, and regular bomb sweeps and body checks in fan zones and stadiums were in operation. This year is the third time that France has hosted the Championships – ‘Le Rendez-Vous’ is the tournament’s very fitting slogan – and French Authorities were determined to make this year’s tournament a success.

Such a high level of surveillance is vital to ensuring the safety of everyone affected by such a major sporting event. However, preparation is just as important. Preparation, Fonio and Pisapia (2015) argue, is what contributed to the success of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. The tournament, they state, represented a shift in FIFA’s approach to security, from reactive security provisions to more proactive policing. In preparation for the World Cup, South African officials visited the 2006 World Cup in Germany and the 2004 Summer Olympics in Greece; the South Africans had done their homework. During the 2010 tournament, security and surveillance were practised by multiple parties; local police, people within the community, nationally-appointed security forces, and FIFA officials. Focussing on Johannesburg, Fonio and Pisapia (2015) identify two main approaches to security that were used, both of which emphasised the highly spatial – and visual – nature of security at major football tournaments. Firstly, Geographical Information System (GIS) technology proved vital to Johannesburg police, who compiled all the relevant event-information into geographical layers – facilities, transportation hubs and routes, security, traffic black spots, road closures – which could be laid over each other to identify high-risk areas for congregations of people. Such technology was also used to analyse physical and social disorder after the events, which was captured and recorded by policemen using GIS handheld devices. The second approach was to use surveillance cameras, South African authorities developing a network of CCTV systems across the host cities. The use of such surveillance technologies, Fonio and Pisapia (2015) claim, created institutional ‘knowledge networks’, in which knowledge about how to tackle disorderly behaviour was shared and transferred, helping the authorities to prepare.

So what went wrong in France? Whilst the French authorities were seemingly prepared, English eyewitnesses have identified gaps in their defence; they were simply not prepared enough. For fans inside the Marseille stadium watching a rather dull game, waiting for England to inevitably concede a last-minute equaliser, it was obvious that trouble was brewing. The perpetrators were renowned Russian ‘ultras’, hardened hooligans who plan and choreograph violent acts. They were wearing logos identifying their allegiance, well-known to the rest of the world, and, as a result, the French police have been heavily criticised for not being more on the ball. There was also a lack of crowd segregation within the stadium, something unheard of even in most English non-league grounds! It is really disappointing that ‘the beautiful game’ has taken such an ugly turn, but let’s hope that the continued work of geographers into understanding both the socio-spatial dynamics of violence and the use of surveillance technologies, will help turn the game around.

 

books_iconFonio, C. and Pisapia, G. (2015). “Security, surveillance and geographical patterns at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in Johannesburg”, The Geographical Journal, 181(3):242-248.

60-world2BBC Euro 2016: Who is to blame for the Marseille violence? BBC online. 14 June 2016

60-world2Nurse H 2016 Euro 2016: How is French security ensuring fan safety? BBC online. 14 June 2016

60-world2BBC Hungary fans clash with riot police inside Marseille stadium BBC online. 18 June 2016.

60-world2BBC Euro 2016: Hungary, Belgium and Portugal federations charged BBC online 19 June 2016.

 

 

Drones for wildlife: the securitization of conservation?

By Helen Pallett

Drone_Flying_Eye

Image credit: Flying Eye (CC SA-BY)

We have come to know drones as one of the newest technologies of warfare and surveillance, a weapon central to how the war on terror is now being fought: remotely and increasingly through the use of computerised devices or robots. But another perhaps surprising use for drones has been developing in parallel, perhaps explaining why the World Wildlife Fund has been a major supporter of drone research since 2012.

On the same day last week the Guardian newspaper published two separate reports on drone usage. The first described how drones are going to be used in Kenya’s national parks in an effort to prevent poaching, whilst the second reported that in Germany drones will be used to protect young deer from being injured by combine harvesters.

These developments raise challenging questions about the development of new technologies. Do the intended purposes of a new technology matter when it is used for something different? Should we be interested in who the funders of technological research and innovation are? Can we assess and understand the uses of drones in wildlife conservation and, increasingly, research without understanding the use of drones as a technology of violence and surveillance? Is this the latest step in what some have referred to as ‘the securitzation of the environment’?

A recent themed section of The Geographical Journal, edited by Michael Mason and Mark Zeitoun, focuses on the issue of environmental security, both as a driver and consequence of increasing anxiety and apocalyptic accounts of the environment. In their introduction the editors argue that such fears about dangerous climate change or species extinctions work rhetorically to justify certain actions as urgent or emergency measures, from solar radiation management to crack downs on human behaviour and liberties.

Whilst few would doubt the seriousness of the threat from poaching to elephant and rhino populations in Kenya, by treating recent population depletion as an emergency scenario or a matter of security the Kenyan Wildlife Service and other conservationists may be serving to legitimate the use of a highly questionable conservation method. The use of drones for surveillance in Kenyan national parks represents a new method for policing ways of acting and being in a national park. The appropriate usage of national parks has long been a matter of controversy, not least because during the creation of many national parks, human populations had to be forcibly removed or regulated. Drones will potentially collect data not only concerning suspected poaching, but also other activities within the national park; all national park users can now be watched and surveilled. This may result in the management not only of poaching in the national parks, but also much more ambiguous activities such as attempts at settlement or the use of other resources.

Whilst it may be convenient to tell a simplistic story about ‘evil’ poachers and ‘good’ conservationists, such narratives can mask the more complex realities and the many negative implications the creation of national parks had for affected communities. Individual poachers may often be acting out of desperation, for example the lack of an alternative source of livelihood. Furthermore, poachers rarely act alone but rather are part of often transnational networks of capital, connecting them to infrastructures and markets for the sale of goods such as elephant and rhino horn.  So surveillance may be unlikely to act as a deterrent on its own.

The Kenyan drones project has been jointly funded by the US, Netherlands, France, Canada and Kenya, and also includes supplies of other military equipment such as firearms, bulletproof vests and night vision equipment. In the Kenyan national parks, drones are to be used in areas considered too risky for surveillance by manned aircraft, already a common practice. In the context of such efforts to radically reduce the risks faced by wildlife rangers in the field and the increasing panic about the loss of elephants and rhinos, how long will it be before it is acceptable to shoot suspected poachers on sight? Furthermore, once the infrastructures for drone use are in place it would be relatively straight-forward to substitute surveillance drones for armed drones, and this could be justified as a further means of protecting national park employees.

As we have seen with the military uses of drones, robots can make mistakes and claim innocent lives. Photos too can frequently be ambiguous and misleading, without other supporting evidence. Furthermore, these potential developments would further circumvent the justice procedures upheld by all the countries financially supporting the drones programme. In the context of albeit justified hysteria about the fast depletion of certain endangered populations, do we risk sanctioning an equally unpalatable solution? Claims of 96% reductions in poaching in some of the Kenyan drone pilots, alongside the circulation of horrifying images and statistics about the effects of poaching, also mean that other potential methods for conservation and poaching management may increasingly be ruled out and foreclosed.

books_icon Michael Mason & Mark Zeitoun 2013 Questioning environmental security, The Geography Journal, 179 (4): 294-297 (Open Access)

60-world2 Google cash buys drones to watch endangered species, BBC News, 6 December 2012

60-world2 Kenya to deploy drones in all national parks in a bid to tackle poaching, The Guardian, 25 April 2014

60-world2 Germany deploys drones to protect young deer from combine harvesters, The Guardian, 25 April 2014

(Im)mobile phone geographies

By Helen Pallett

A_Japanese_woman_with_a_mobile_phone

Image credit: Derek A. from Akishima, Japan

Mobile phones are, for many of us, an essential yet banal technology. Without them many of us would struggle to organise our lives, entertain ourselves and stay in contact with loved ones, yet we frequently take for granted this technology which was not widely in use, even 15 years ago.  The humble mobile phone however, is a central element in several of the biggest news stories of the past two weeks, including the trial of senior figures in the British press accused of hacking into the mobile phones of celebrities and other individuals, the revelation that the United State’s National Security Agency was tapping the calls of foreign prime ministers and presidents, and the story that the UK Border Agency had sent a text message to thousands of people accusing them of being illegal migrants.

In contrast to the media coverage of events around the Arab Spring in 2011, these stories highlight not the potential for mobile phone technologies to bolster personal freedom and popular movements, but rather their potential to act as more sinister technologies of surveillance and discrimination. This highlights how mobile phones can function as technologies of control, fixity and immobility in certain contexts, whilst they can increase mobility and connections across physical distance in others. These recent developments raise serious challenges for how we can live with and regulate such technologies, even in the context of supposedly liberal western societies.

A review of ‘Mobile Phone Geographies’ in the journal Geography Compass by Julia Pfaff in 2010, discusses how geographers are studying mobile technologies and engaging with these challenges. The tension between the potential for mobile phones to promote certain freedoms but also to enable forms of control and surveillance, is something which has been of particular interest to geographers. In particular, mobile technologies enable surveillance and control not only between nation states and large corporations – though the NSA revelations show that this form of surveillance is far from dead – but they allow surveillance between private citizens. So individual journalists were able to listen in to personal calls and access voice mail messages. In the case of the UKBA texts, the British state was able to connect up vast amounts of data about the residency status of private citizens to mobile phone records, in order to send out a mass text message to at least 39,000 people. The evidential basis of these text messages has been undermined by evidence that some of the recipients were British passport holders; yet, their impact as a tool of automated yet targeted intimidation was still keenly felt by the individuals concerned as a strategy of control and immobilisation.

This tension between freedom and control in analysis of mobile phone use is closely linked to the blurring it allows between private and public spaces. Mobile phones allow private conversations to be conducted in public spaces, whilst also enabling people to act publicly  – for example on the internet or as part of protest movements – when they are themselves in private spaces. The possibility of surveillance and control blurs these boundaries further. For  example, the UKBA’s texts represented a very public campaign conducted through a private, personal means of communication, whilst debates around phone-hacking and the regulation of the press hinge on how to balance notions of the public interest with the rights of individuals to privacy.

Geographers and other analysts need to be wary of technological determinism when discussing the societal effects and entanglements of important technologies like mobile phones. In tandem with the potential for mobile phone and smart phone technologies to promote greater mobility across space, and enable previously impossible or difficult interactions, there is also the potential for these same technologies to play into a politics of control which can have the effect of limiting or guiding the mobility of certain individuals and groups.

books_icon Julia Pfaff 2010 Mobile Phone Geographies Geography Compass 4 1433-1447

60-world2 Les Back You’ve got a text from UKBA: Technologies of control and connection Discover Society, 13 October

60-world2 Phone-hacking: trail of Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks to begin The Guardian, 28 October

60-world2 US spy leaks: how intelligence is gathered BBC News, 30 October 

The geographies of schools

By Rosa Mas Giralt

BBC2 is currently showing a number of documentaries and dramas under the banner of School Season. The programmes focus on the current education system in the UK and explore issues around schools, parents, teachers and pupils. So far, there have been very interesting contributions such as John Humphry’s documentary Unequal Opportunities examining the reasons why there continues to be great differences between the educational attainment of advantaged and disadvantaged pupils; although completely engaging and illuminating, the programme exposed once more that, without adequate resources and investment, improving the educational opportunities of children from disadvantaged backgrounds is very difficult to achieve. Another absorbing programme was the drama Excluded, which focused on an inner-city school and a pupil who faced exclusion for his disruptive behaviour, showing the complexity of issues that may affect a young person’s life and the difficult task of those in the teaching profession who need to make decisions which can be life-changing for pupils. The season continues and most of the programmes can be watched on the BBC website (for a limited number of days) or they can be downloaded from the BBC iPlayer.

The sub-discipline of children’s geographies has provided influential research aimed at deepening our understanding of the lives, experiences, identities and spaces/places of young people and has foregrounded their capabilities as social actors on their own right. A recent contribution to this scholarship is an article by Barker et al. (2010) in the current issue of Area. This paper explores a new internal space created in some schools in which pupils, who have been temporarily excluded (fix-term exclusions), can be confined, the so called “Seclusion Units”. Using a Foucauldian approach, the authors map these spaces, explore their surveillance and power structures and the possibilities for resistance which pupils have within them. Importantly, the authors find commonalities between the spatial practices of these units and those of other penal spaces such as prisons; this leads them to issue a call for a “moral debate about the desirability of these contemporary educational practices” (2010: 385), a debate which seems crucial.

 Visit the BBC’s School Season website to discover more about the programmes

 Read John Barker et al. (2010) “Pupils or prisoners? Institutional geographies and internal exclusion in UK secondary schools”. Area. 42(3): 378-386

UAVs and the geographies of aerial spaces

By Matthew Rech

This week, the Guardian reported that the UK police force are planning to deploy unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) for the routine monitoring of motorists, protestors, agricultural thieves and fly-tippers (Lewis). Documentation obtained through the freedom of information act suggests that a partnership between BAE Systems and a consortium of government agencies led by Kent Police hope to inaugurate their ‘national drone plan’ with surveillance operations during the London 2012 Olympics.

Routinely in the news, and infamous for their use in reconnaissance and air strikes in Afghanistan and Iraq, the military-style drones will be adapted for use in the UK, with current models being limited by air-space law. The financial cost of ‘revolutionising policing’ in this way, Lewis reports, will be offset by spreading the initial outlay across several government agencies, and by the aircraft ‘undertaking commercial work during spare time’.

Although it is possible for us to frame this story in a number of ways (surveillance, civil liberties and policing, post-human and military technologies), relatively new work in the geographies and geopolitics of aerial spaces might provide a cogent framework with which to assess the implications of airborne covert surveillance.

Writing in Area, Alison Williams ties together an ever-growing literature in aerial geographies/geopolitics, and emphasises the importance of thinking in 3D: of considering the vertical and volumetric aspects of the geographies of states. Although Williams’ article is concerned with the territorial integrity and contingent sovereignty issues in relation to military violations of airspace, an emphasis on the complexities associated with “strategies of security and securitisation increasingly enacted by powerful states” (57) through utilisation of sovereign airspace, remains pertinent to the discussion.

Here, and “as UAVs become the dominant modes of aerial attack” (57) (or in this case, surveillance), the lessons learned from considering the technological, political and moral implications of incursions into sovereign space might usefully be used to consider the future geographies of civilian domestic surveillance.

Read Paul Lewis’ article at Guardian online

Read Williams, A (2009) A crisis in aerial sovereignty? Considering the implications of recent military violations of national airspace. Area 42, 1. 51-59

Read more about the geographies and geopolitics of airspace at the Newcastle University Military Geography website