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This page will be updated regularly and will grow into a launchpad for future research and a collection of all think tank outcomes, podcasts, desk research, and proof of concept.

Empowering Citizens with Inverse Surveillance AI

The phrase “Big Brother is watching you” from Orwell’s dystopian novel ‘1984’ embodied the fear for mass surveillance. How surveillance can be used for control and influence behavior was also explored by Foucault, and Bentham’s Panopticon model. However, what if we turned the whole idea of surveillance upside down, and use AI to surveil and regulate organizations? In this case AI technologies won’t be used to enhance dystopian surveillance scenarios, but rather promote a utopian world of transparency and accountability.

Tech for Good
In this project we create a think tank of scientists, policymakers, and philosophers in order to answer the question, “How can we use AI as a Panopticon to promote beneficial actions for citizens by organizations?” Based on the insights produced from this thinktank, a first proof of concept will be developed in a hackathon. The project lasts 6 months and operates from a utopian and solution-oriented approach. The main goal is to deepen the subject of Inverse Surveillance, to explore how AI can make this possible, and sharing all information so that it can function as a launchpad for future research.

How to get Involved
Empowering Citizens with Inverse Surveillance AI is a project of The Asimov Institute, funded by the SIDN Fund. If you would like to share related ideas, know about existing projects or tools for inverse surveillance, or if you want to participate in the hackathon and work on a proof of concept, feel free to visit our website or follow us on LinkedIn for regular updates, and contact us at juliette@asimovinstitute.org.

People behind the project
Juliette van der Laarse – Project Leader
Noah Neuman – Project Member
Stefan Leijnen – Asimov Director

2021 Hackathon = CLOSED

Expert Interviews

Complete Overview of all 4 interviews | December 4 2021
The presence and increasing use of surveillance in our daily lives means our awareness and engagement need to be active as much as it is theoretical. During the course of this podcast series, host Abdelrahman Hassan and the The Asimov Institute Director Stefan Leijnen, will go into conversation with experts about… [Read More]

Case Study


Two Examples of Inverse Surveillance | September 24 2021
Here we provide some metaphors as examples to better illustrate Inverse Surveillance. These metaphors are a representation of how we see inverse surveillance in comparison to other forms of surveillance and sousveillance at this moment in time. Throughout this project we aim to continue to refine this concept, and [Read More]

Panopticon for the Masses | May 7 2021
With security cameras in public places, police making their regular rounds in neighborhoods, proctors watching students during exams, and government organizations monitoring suspicious behavior online, surveillance is a part of our daily lives. Not only does such surveillance help spot and punish criminal behavior, it also has a psychological effect, and it is this effect that [Read More]

On Utopian Thinking | April 23 2021
Surveillance AI is not exactly considered to be a positive development in this day and age, with controversial stories like China’s mass surveillance headlining many news platforms. (Andersen, 2020; BBC, 2021). These news items evoke a negative perception on AI and reminds us of movies like iRobot, Terminator, 2001: Space Odyssey, and Minority Report.This technophobic and dystopian view of [Read more]

Conceptualizing Inverse Surveillance | April 23 2021
In our new project, we focus on unwrapping the concept of Inverse surveillance, and how it can be used to empower citizens with AI technology. Since we wanted to place surveillance in the hands of citizens, the first name that popped in mind to label this utopian vision on surveillance was ‘Inverse Surveillance’. [Read More]