Author Identifier


Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Science

First Supervisor

Mike Johnstone

Second Supervisor

Michael Crowley

Third Supervisor

Patryk Szewczyk


Understanding attitudes towards privacy and surveillance technologies used to enhance security objectives is a complex, but crucial aspect for policy makers to consider. Historically, terrorism-related incidents justified the uptake of surveillance practices. More recently however, biosecurity concerns have motivated nation-states to adopt more intrusive surveillance measures. There is a growing body of literature that supports the public’s desire to maintain privacy despite fears of biological or physical threats.

This research set out to explore attitudes towards privacy and surveillance in an Australian context. Throughout the course of this endeavour, the COVID-19 pandemic emerged bringing with it a variety of track and trace technologies, not seen before in our history. Furthermore, attitudinal research during this unprecedented time is unique and therefore, offered an opportunity to gain insight into attitudes across a spectrum of privacy- and surveillance-related concerns. In this vein, a national survey was undertaken throughout 2021 that explored privacy and surveillance attitudes in Australia encapsulating various aspects of pandemic surveillance.

Various themes within the realm of privacy and surveillance research have emerged as influential elements shaping individual attitudes. These themes not only possess reflective and formative characteristics but also contribute to the establishment of several quantifiable constructs. The convergence of these themes and attitudinal attributes resulted in the development of a theoretical framework, the “Privacy Attitude Model”. This model is a product of comprehensive research into privacy, security, and surveillance, serving as the foundation of the survey instrument. It is expected that this model will be adaptable for future research, enriching the existing knowledge in this domain.

The study discovered that the level of trust individuals place in institutions influences their apprehensions regarding surveillance. Those who possess higher levels of trust are generally more receptive to surveillance practices. However, there is noteworthy evidence indicating a decline in overall trust. As a result, it becomes imperative to undertake every possible measure to uphold public confidence. Amid these considerations, the concept of data sovereignty has emerged as a contentious topic. A substantial portion of survey respondents found it challenging to comprehend data management methodologies and express a strong preference for preventing the offshore transfer of their personal information. Furthermore, they desire increased control over their data. The vast majority of respondents expressed a strong desire to have the power to opt out of surveillance involving image capture. This desire is fundamentally rooted in the issue of consent.


Author also known as Leah Shanley.