The teleological account of proportional surveillance

Res Publica (3):1-29 (2020)
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This article analyses proportionality as a potential element of a theory of morally justified surveillance, and sets out a teleological account. It draws on conceptions in criminal justice ethics and just war theory, defines teleological proportionality in the context of surveillance, and sketches some of the central values likely to go into the consideration. It then explores some of the ways in which deontologists might want to modify the account and illustrates the difficulties of doing so. Having set out the account, however, it considers whether the proportionality condition is necessary to a theory of morally justified surveillance. The article concludes that we need and should apply only a necessity condition, but notes that proportionality considerations may retain some use in in practice, as a form of coarseā€grained filter applied before assessing necessity when deliberating the permissibility of potential forms of surveillance.

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Frej Thomsen
Danish National Centre for Ethics


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