Gambling with the “Gift”? On the Relationship between Security Technologies, Trust and Distrust. The Case of Fingerprinting

Sylvia Kühne


Trust is seen as a vital constituent of individual and cooperative action, being a value of its own. But the rise of automated control technologies in recent years, for instance digital fingerprinting, is descried to be a development yielding distrust and inhibiting the establishment of trust-based relationships. This article critically pursues this thesis about the effects of new technologies of security and control for the “gift” of trust, by confronting the underlying general assumption with empirical data from a qualitative study on the social acceptance of fingerprinting in both governmental and commercial use. The article argues that, given the contextual circumstances in which the use of digital fingerprinting is embedded, on the one hand the use of fingerprinting does not necessarily lead to a culture of distrust and, on the other, that the relationship of trust, distrust and digital fingerprinting is more nuanced than depicted in the theoretical apprehensions.


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