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First they came for the poor: surveillance of welfare recipients as an uncontested practice

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Maréchal, Nathalie

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Abstract There have been moments in American history when government surveillance of everyday citizens has aroused public concerns, most recently Edward Snowden's 2013 revelations concerning widespread, warrantless surveillance of Americans and foreigners alike. What does not arouse public concern are longstanding governmental practices that involve surveillance of poor people who receive certain types of public benefits. This article traces the political history of U.S. poverty-relief programs, considers the perspective of welfare beneficiaries themselves, analyzes American cultural beliefs about the poor in order to offer some thoughts on why those surveillance practices garner little public concern, and argues that those who are concerned about warrantless surveillance of ordinary citizens should do more to protect ordinary poor citizens from surveillance.
Keywords monitoring; data protection; poverty; United States of America; welfare; social assistance
Classification Social Security; Law; Peace and Conflict Research, International Conflicts, Security Policy
Document language English
Publication Year 2015
Page/Pages p. 56-67
Journal Media and Communication, 3 (2015) 3
Issue topic Surveillance: critical analysis and current challenges (part II)
ISSN 2183-2439
Status Published Version; peer reviewed
Licence Creative Commons - Attribution