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HOMELAND: UK Surveillance expert appointed as Visiting Professor at VUW

Posted 6/7/2016

JULY 06: Professor William Webster of the University of Stirling will be the NZ-UK Link Foundation’s inaugural Visiting Professor to New Zealand.  A respected expert on the governance and regulation of privacy and data protection, Prof Webster will be attached to VUW’s School of Government for three months from 01 July.

The objective of the NZ-UK Link Foundation is to make a ‘continuing and substantial contribution to the intellectual, educational, vocational and academic underpinning of the bilateral relationship between New Zealand and the UK in a changing world’. The Visiting Professorship programme has been established to advance this objective.

During his stay in New Zealand, Prof Webster will give a series of five public lectures and three expert seminars, and will engage with academic colleagues, government agencies and other professional in his area of expertise.

Prof Webster is a specialist in the emergence of new surveillance technologies in public policy and a leading authority on the policies and practices surrounding the provision of CCTV surveillance cameras and systems in public places. He is an expert advisor to the UK Surveillance Camera Commissioner.

According to the professor, “Surveillance is embedded in a range of technologies that are essential for modern life: mobile phones, supermarket loyalty cards, website cookies or satellite navigation systems in the car. These create a digital footprint and provide valuable personal information that can be used by government agencies and private organisations for a variety purposes.

“Within society, the value of privacy is poorly understood and consequently we have very little idea what happens to our personal data, much of which we give away without thinking. We do very little to protect our privacy in a surveillance society. How many people read the terms and conditions before they tick the box to give them access to a new service on the internet?

Currently, we do not have a good enough understanding of the information we are giving away or how it is used. I am really looking forward to exchanging views on these issues with colleagues in New Zealand”

NZ-UK Link Foundation Chairman, David Middleton, said “With the question of privacy and the need for public safety a matter of current debate, and Sir Michael Cullen’s recent report on Intelligence and Security under consideration, this is an excellent time for New Zealand and the UK to share their experiences on the issues around privacy and surveillance.”

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