Cliodhna Pierce


Despite increasing awareness of the rise in societal surveillance as a result of leaks by former NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and subsequent revelations from Wikileaks, the damage of pervasive surveillance practices on the individual and on communities has yet to be measured. As John Gilliom has argued, ‘until we are able to generate sufficient research to make plausible sense of how differently situated people – welfare mothers, prisoners, students, middle-class professionals – speak of and respond to their various surveillance settings, we will be unable to devise a meaningful account of what surveillance is’ (2006, 126). Before we can examine the impact and influence of surveillance on these or other segments of society, we must examine the pervasive nature of general surveillance techniques. The objective of this paper is to consider in detail the historical techniques of government surveillance on communities in Northern Ireland (NI) and the former East Germany (GDR). By looking at these two models of surveillance societies, we can begin to compare and contrast the differences in strategies used in a democracy and a dictatorship. Using these two examples of two heavily surveilled communities, taking a detailed look at five techniques in particular, we gain insight into the implantation of surveillance practices used by different political model structures. The aim is to explore the similarities and differences in strategies used in both states, allowing us to assess the trajectory of future surveillance tactics and its relevance in the securitization of society today.