Mobility Control in the Digital Age: The Everyday Securing of Human, Financial and Data Mobilities is a research partnership that investigates how tensions between competing demands for security and mobility are addressed by the choice and use of mobility control technologies. More specifically, the proposed project focuses on how the mobility control of people, money and data is increasingly mediated by new technologies for law enforcement and counterterrorism purposes. Technological innovations in digital computing and big data analytics are seen as a solution for the everyday securing of these mobilities in the digital age. The proposed project aims to examine the role and effects of new technologies on the dynamic tension between freedom of mobility and the provision of security. Our research partnership will consist in a collaborative effort between researchers and practitioners to inquire on the technologies used and developed to control people, money and data on the move and will help us highlight the different ways we currently control who and what can move and how, and who and what cannot.
These three mobilities constitute our research clusters:
Security issues have been central to states’ management of the movement of people. Current developments, however, further the anxiety over states’ capacity to control the migration and the movements of human beings (D’Aoust, 2013; Paquet, 2015; Walters, 2016). While security concerns have become attached to individuals—either as carriers of weapons and dangerous goods or as moral security threats—the demands for enhanced security, coupled with technological innovation, has thus generated opportunities but also constraints for the states (Bigo, 2014; Pallister-Wilkins, 2016). States now use a mix of old technologies (e.g.: detention and force) and new technologies (e.g.: algorithms for immigrant selection and biometric passports), in relation to new actors (e.g.: employers and firm) to implement mobility control and mobility facilitation (Leerkes and Broeders 2010; Mezzadra and Neilson 2013). This cluster will document these new forms of mobility control while considering the specific tensions of using technologies in relation to individuals’ rights and agency.
While there is a wide range of security issues in the field of finance, the language used to speak of the securing of flows of money remains remarkably similar to other sectors of mobility control (Amicelle et al. 2017). Securities markets enforcement, anti-money laundering and counterterrorism financing regulations are promoted to filter out suspicious transactions (de Goede 2012; Gilbert, 2013). These regulations are increasingly implemented through technological innovations for transaction monitoring and anomaly detection without slowing down the systemic fluidity of financial mobility by enabling efficient filtering of “good” and “bad” flows (de Goede 2012). “Financial policing actors” (Amicelle 2017) – who range from finance to security and from for-profit organizations to law-enforcement and other state agencies – rely on algorithmic technologies and big data analytics to control from several thousands to hundred million transactions every month with mass surveillance as the new normal (Bellanova et al. 2017). This cluster will document these new “high-tech” controls of financial flows while considering the specific tensions with the current functioning of securities markets as well as payment and financial services.
In light of the process of “datafication” (Mayer-Schönberger & Cukier 2013), many forms of social interaction and transaction can be rendered as digital data (Amoore & Piotukh 2015). From this perspective, data movement is monitored to police social media communication (Trottier 2012; Kitchin and Lauriault, 2015), often secretly (Grondin and Shah 2016), while it is also used – collected, processed, exchanged – to both enable and monitor other forms of physical and digital mobility such as movement of people and financial flows (Jeandesboz 2017). This cluster will document how digital data – whether “small” or “big” – is constituted as part and parcel of technologies of mobility control while also being controlled as a mobility – in other words, it will decipher how the mobility of data is governed through data (as practice of security).