Who is watching over you? The role of shared identity in perceptions of surveillancey

Aisling T. O'Donnell*, Jolanda Jetten, Michelle K. Ryan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Two studies were conducted to investigate the role of social identity in appraisals of the purpose and acceptance of surveillance. In Study 1 (N=12), a survey study demonstrated that there is a negative relationship between identification with one's city and the extent to which public closed circuit television (CCTV) surveillance is perceived as an invasion of privacy. This relationship was mediated by perceptions that the purpose of surveillance is to ensure safety. Study 2 (N=139) manipulated identity salience at the sub-group and superordinate level and the source of surveillance. Results demonstrated that surveillance originating from fellow sub-group members was perceived as less privacy invading than surveillance originating from the superordinate group, but only when that sub-group identity was salient. No differences in perceptions of privacy invasion were found when the more inclusive identity was made salient. We argue that whether surveillance is perceived as an invasion of privacy depends on the perceived social relationship with the source of the surveillance-surveillance is perceived as more acceptable when it originates from a group with which one identifies or shares an identity. Practical implications are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)135-147
Number of pages13
JournalEuropean Journal of Social Psychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb-2010
Externally publishedYes

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