Digital Civil Society Speaker Series: Luxury Surveillance

April 4th, 2024 - 4:00 pm to 5:15 pm PT

McClatchy Hall, Room S40 (Studio) 450 Jane Stanford Way, BLDG 120
Stanford, CA 94305

Register here to join us in-person.

Join us for a monthly gathering that explores critical insights on the intersections and implications of digital dependencies with democratic norms and civil society values and actors. The Digital Civil Society Speaker Series is a thought-provoking forum that brings together leading experts and scholars to discuss pressing issues shaping our digital world.

The Digital Civil Society Lab is delighted to be joined by Dr. Chris Gilliard who will discuss Luxury Surveillance.

The purpose of this talk is to explore the concept of “luxury surveillance,” a form of surveillance that people pay for and whose tracking, monitoring, and quantification features are understood by the user as benefits they are likely to celebrate. From a technical standpoint, there is little difference between an ankle monitor and wearables such as Fitbits, Apple Watches, and Oura rings. Ankle monitors, however, are imposed upon people on parole, probation, or awaiting an immigration hearing. On the other end of the spectrum, consumers of luxury surveillance see themselves as powerful and sovereign, and perhaps even immune from unwelcome monitoring and control. They see self-quantification and tracking not as disciplinary or coercive, but as a kind of care or empowerment. Whether mandated or voluntarily adopted, these technologies can be understood as mechanisms of control, but in different ways. The imposed control of the incarcerated becomes the algorithmically aided self-control of the individual. Post-Dobbs and in the midst of an AI gold rush, it’s meaningful to consider the implications for us all becoming completely legible to surveillance devices.

Dr. Chris Gilliard is a writer, professor, and speaker. His scholarship concentrates on digital privacy, surveillance, and the intersections of race, class, and technology. He is an advocate for critical and equity-focused approaches to tech in education. His writings have been featured in the New York Times, the Washington PostWired Magazine, the Chronicle of Higher Ed, and Vice Magazine. He is a Visiting Research Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School Shorenstein Center, a member of the UCLA Center for Critical Internet Inquiry Scholars Council, and a member of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project community advisory board. Gilliard is a member of the inaugural (2022 – 2024) cohort of the Just Tech Fellowship.


  • Dr. Chris Gilliard - Independent Privacy Researcher