Kevin  Macnish Author of Evaluating Organization Development

Kevin Macnish

Assistant Professor
University of Twente

Dr Kevin Macnish researches the ethics of surveillance, security and technology. He is the author of several articles on automation, privacy and surveillance ethics. Kevin has been interviewed about his research on UK national radio and television and has spoken at both the House of Commons and the House of Lords. He has also been involved with a number of European Union projects with a focus in ICT and Security, and is an Ethics Expert with REA, the research arm of the European Commission.

Subjects: Philosophy


Kevin Macnish graduated from the University of Leeds with a BA in Philosophy in 1995 with a focus on ethics and terrorism.  He took this interest further in an MA in International Relations at the University of East Anglia the following year, where his research looked at the Chechen War, still raging at the time.  In late 1996, Kevin started working for GCHQ in Cheltenham, a job which led to a 3-month secondment with the Defence Intelligence Staff in London and a 4-year posting to the British Embassy in Washington, DC.  

In 2002 Kevin left the civil service to study for an MA in Theology and began working with his wife Barbara for a church in Florence, Italy.  In 2007 they returned to the UK for Kevin to take an MA and then a PhD in Philosophy back at the University of Leeds.  Kevin's doctorate considered the use of the just war tradition as a framework for analysing the ethics of surveillance, drawing on his experience with the government.

In 2012 Kevin became Teaching Fellow and Consultant at the Inter-Disciplinary Applied Ethics Centre at the University of Leeds, where he continued to research ethical issues in surveillance, security and technology, with an increasing interest in privacy and personal data.  In this time he also taught ethics to undergraduate and postgraduate students in Computer Science, Chemistry and Engineering.

In 2017 Kevin became Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Twente in the Netherlands, where he continues to research ethics and technology while teaching ethics to Computer Science students.  In addition to his work The Ethics of Surveillance: an Introduction, Kevin is co-editing a new book on the impact of data analytics ("big data") on the democratic process.

Areas of Research / Professional Expertise

    Applied ethics in the areas of: surveillance, security, technology, social media; professional ethics in computing and engineering; political philosophy; philosophy of religion; medieval philosophy; metaphysics

Personal Interests

    Cinema (particularly the films of Krysztof Kieslowski and decent anime), high-intensity exercise and reading dystopian fiction (especially anything by William Gibson).  Kevin is on the Management Board for the Sanctuary, a Christian house of prayer and worship, and helps out at his church in Leeds when he is able.


Featured Title
 Featured Title - Ethics of Surveillance - 1st Edition book cover


Journal of Applied Philosophy

Government Surveillance and Why Defining Privacy Matters in a Post-Snowden World

Published: May 19, 2016 by Journal of Applied Philosophy
Authors: Kevin Macnish
Subjects: Philosophy

There is a long-running debate as to whether privacy is a matter of control or access. This has become more important following revelations made by Edward Snowden in 2013 regarding the collection of vast swathes of data from the Internet by signals intelligence agencies such as NSA and GCHQ. I argue that the control account is wrong, but the collection is nonetheless problematic.

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice

An eye for an eye: proportionality and surveillance

Published: Jun 01, 2015 by Ethical Theory and Moral Practice
Authors: Kevin Macnish
Subjects: Philosophy

It is often claimed that surveillance should be proportionate, but it is rarely made clear exactly what proportionate surveillance would look like beyond an intuitive sense of an act being excessive. I argue that surveillance should indeed be proportionate and draw on Thomas Hurka's work on proportionality in war to inform the debate on surveillance.

Surveillance and Society

Just Surveillance: Towards a Normative Theory of Surveillance

Published: Mar 01, 2014 by Surveillance and Society
Authors: Kevin Macnish
Subjects: Philosophy

Despite recent growth in surveillance capabilities there has been little discussion regarding the ethics of surveillance. Much of the research that has been carried out has tended to lack a coherent structure or fails to address key concerns. I argue that the just war tradition should be used as an ethical framework which is applicable to surveillance, providing the questions which should be asked of any surveillance operation.

Ethics and Information Technology

Unblinking eyes: the ethics of automating surveillance

Published: Jun 01, 2012 by Ethics and Information Technology
Authors: Kevin Macnish
Subjects: Philosophy

In this paper I critique the ethical implications of automating CCTV surveillance. I consider three modes of CCTV with respect to automation: manual (or non-automated), fully automated, and partially automated. In each of these I examine concerns posed by processing capacity, prejudice towards and profiling of surveilled subjects, and false positives and false negatives.


Surveillance Ethics: An Introduction to be available from 26 July 2016

By: Kevin Macnish
Subjects: Philosophy

The Ethics of Surveillance: An Introduction systematically and comprehensively examines the ethical issues surrounding the concept of surveillance. Addressing important questions such as:

  • Is it ever acceptable to spy on one's allies?
  • To what degree should the state be able to intrude into its citizens' private lives in the name of security?
  • Can corporate espionage ever be justified?
  • What are the ethical issues surrounding big data?
  • How far should a journalist go in pursuing information?
  • Is it reasonable to expect a degree of privacy in public?
  • Is it ever justifiable for a parent to read a child’s diary?

Featuring case studies throughout this textbook provides a philosophical introduction to an incredibly topical issue studied by students within the fields of applied ethics, ethics of technology, privacy, security studies, politics, journalism and human geography.


BBC Breakfast Interview

Published: Nov 25, 2015

Appearance on BBC Breakfast to discuss House of Commons Committee on Science and Technology report on big data and social media, to which I contributed.