chapter  9
16 Pages

Computer crime control as industry: Virtual insecurity and the market for private policing

ByMAJID YAR

It has been argued recently that societal and systemic dispositions towards security are undergoing (or have already undergone) a fundamental shift. The central dimension of this transition can be traced in the reconfiguration of how we collectively conceive and manage security across a whole range of spheres (variously economic, social, political, environmental and interpersonal). In what Zedner (2007: 262) calls a ‘pre-crime society’, there is a shift in ‘the temporal perspective to anticipate and forestall that which has not yet occurred and may never do so’. In the place of ex-post reaction to undesirable and harmful events, ‘there is calculation, risk and uncertainty, surveillance, precaution, prudentialism, moral hazard, prevention and, arching over all these, there is the pursuit of security’ (ibid.). This movement is manifested as the revelation of threats to security that may entail deleterious consequences and whose threat must be managed so as to curtail them before potentiality of harm becomes actuality. Thus we witness an incessant, nagging insecurity about the carcinogenic properties of mobile phones (Burgess 2004), an ‘epidemic’ of childhood obesity (Kline 2004), recreational drug use amongst young people (Manning 2007), MMR vaccinations (Stroud 2005), the threat of sexual assault via ‘date rape’ (Moore and Valverde 2000), and Islamic terrorism (Welch 2006; Furedi 2007), amongst many other issues. Such insecurities are no doubt incited by the drive to order, control and regulate a world that is perceived as ever more risky (symptomatic of what Furedi (2005, 2006) calls a ‘culture of fear’; see also Glassner (2000)). Yet in turn they call forth a host of interventions that aim to ‘securitise’ what is perceived as a dangerously disordered, mutable and unpredictable social field. Thus insecurity generates security seeking, and security-seeking contributes to a greater sensitivity to risks, thereby contributing to greater feelings of insecurity (see also discussion in Ericson 2007). The apparatus of securitisation has crucially entailed the involvement of actors located outside the ‘traditional’ institutions of governance, namely those of the state. Instead, in decidedly neo-liberal times, the capitalist market now mediates a bewildering range and variety of tools and technologies, expert knowledge and ‘best practice’ strategies, precautionary codes and threat assessments.