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Police use of data from sky and space – technical advancements and national and international legal and regulatory challenges (RDF20/BL/LAW/OSWALD)

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, January 24, 2020
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

Harvesting data from sky and space, which could be said to epitomise ‘mass surveillance’, has received little regulatory focus despite significant developments in drone technology, resolution and frequency of satellite imagery, and the use of algorithms combined with other data such as social media to obtain further insight from the images. It is possible to envisage a scenario under which an area of policing interest is put under continuous satellite and radar surveillance, backed up by targeted drone imagery, with images being analysed with the help of machine learning to draw conclusions about activities of those on the ground. Use of surveillance technologies tend to be justified on the basis of the benefit to particular policing operations, for example in the search for missing persons.

The cumulative effect of new techniques– and the feeding of machine learning tools with other automated outputs - can be overlooked however, raising questions around the assessment of proportionality from a human rights perspective. Furthermore, the legal framework governing space activity, written as it was during the height of the cold war, makes no mention of the role in space applications in combatting criminality. Scrutinising populations or locations from sky and space, and drawing conclusions about individuals, could accentuate and generate new concerns around surveillance and proactive criminalisation. Should satellite images be regarded as the equivalent of mundane human observation (as facial recognition was so regarded by the High Court in the Bridges case), and what could be the consequences for policing by consent of the widespread use by the police of data from sky and space?

The project would investigate such concerns alongside consideration of what could be achieved by a police force through (i) automated computer vision methods (ii) crowdsourced interpretation of imagery (iii) a combination of both (including machine learning).

Eligibility and How to Apply

Please note eligibility requirement:

- Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
- Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
- Applicants cannot apply for this funding if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see:

Please note: Applications that do not include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words (not a copy of the advert), or that do not include the advert reference (e.g. RDF20/…) will not be considered.

Deadline for applications: Friday 24 January 2020.

Start Date: 1 October 2020.

Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff. We welcome applications from all members of the community. The University holds an Athena SWAN Bronze award in recognition of our commitment to improving employment practices for the advancement of gender equality.

Funding Notes

The studentship is available to Students Worldwide where a full stipend, paid for three years at RCUK rates (for 2019/20, this is £15,009 pa) and full fees.

Related Subjects

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