Andrea Zeffiro Gil Niessen Clementine Oberst Sam McEwan Alexis-Carlota Cochrane Joshua Durand

Discourses on cybersecurity. The politics of the data breach as a security crisis



Cybersecurity is a complex topic that is no longer limited to the information technology industry or national security agencies. It intersects with multiple facets of contemporary life, affecting individuals, organizations, and nation-states in increasingly interlocking ways. We examine one aspect of cybersecurity: data breaches. Our contribution stems from a larger multi-year project that traces the emergence of data breaches as a security crisis from 2005 to the present. We focus on how these events are construed as security crises through the normalizing discourses of cybersecurity rhetoric and mainstream media. Our analysis centers on three pairings or cases: the 2007 Tjx companies data breach and the Fourth intergovernmental panel on climate change report, the 2013 Yahoo data breach and Edward Snowden National security agency disclosures, and the 2018 MyFitnessPal data breach and the Gatwick drone incident. Our preliminary findings respond to two related questions. What historical conditions, practices, techniques, and deployments of power have shaped dominant cultural understandings of data breaches as security crises? How has knowledge about data breaches been circulated and obscured by dominant security crisis discourses? By engaging with these questions, we examine how data breaches materialize into intelligible objects and events along two axes: the hegemony of the security crisis and the normalization of surveillance capitalism. We argue that data breaches are social, political, and cultural processes rather than strictly neutral technological phenomena


  • Cybersecurity
  • Data Breach
  • Security Crisis
  • Critical Discourse Analysis
  • North America


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