M.Math., M.Phil., Sc.D. (Nijmegen), www.cs.ru.nl/BJacobs. The author would like to thank colleagues Marcel Becker, Jaap-Henk Hoepman, James McKinna and Wouter Teepe for their helpful critical comments..
In modern technologically advanced societies citizens leave numerous identifiable digital traces that are being stored, monitored and processed by both private and public parties. This has led to what is commonly called a ‘surveillance society’. Increasingly, this abundance of (personal) information is also being used to influence and control people. The active, deliberate, large scale control of people in their private lives is seen here as a key characteristic of a totalitarian society. The question (and also the concern) arises whether the gradual move to a surveillance society will be followed by a (gradual) move to a totalitarian society. The issues presented by the author are illustrated by several examples, with a focus on the technologies involved.