The “New” Private Security Industry, the Private Policing of Cyberspace and the Regulatory Questions

AuthorMark Button
Published date01 February 2020
Date01 February 2020
Subject MatterArticles
Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice
2020, Vol. 36(1) 39 –55
© The Author(s) 2019
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/1043986219890194
The “New” Private Security
Industry, the Private Policing
of Cyberspace and the
Regulatory Questions
Mark Button1
This article explores the growth of the “new” private security industry and private
policing arrangements, policing cyberspace. It argues there has been a significant
change in policing which is equivalent to the “quiet revolution” associated with
private policing that Shearing and Stenning observed in the 1970s and 1980s, marking
the “second quiet revolution.” The article then explores some of the regulatory
questions that arise from these changes, which have been largely ignored to date by
scholars of policing and policy-makers, making some clear recommendations for the
future focus of them.
private security, private policing, regulation, cybercrime and cyberspace
Writing in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Shearing and Stenning observed the substan-
tial changes to policing taking place at the time in North America, describing the trans-
formation as a “quiet revolution.” They noted the substantial growth of private security,
linked to the advance of mass private property and the underfunding of the police, with
a sector focused upon preventive rather than curative policing (Stenning & Shearing,
1979b). They also observed how these significant changes had been occurring with
little debate or scrutiny from scholars and policy-makers. A significant number of
researchers have built upon their body of research noting the continued augmentation
of private security and other forms of private policing and the need for special
1University of Portsmouth, UK
Corresponding Author:
Mark Button, Institute of Criminal Justice Studies, University of Portsmouth, St Georges Building, 141
High St, Portsmouth PO1 2HY, UK.
890194CCJXXX10.1177/1043986219890194Journal of Contemporary Criminal JusticeButton
40 Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice 36(1)
regulatory and governance structures (Button, 2019; Crawford, 2003; Johnston &
Shearing, 2003; Jones & Newburn, 1998; Loader & White, 2017; Nalla & Gurinskaya,
2017; Prenzler & Sarre, 1999; Stenning & Shearing, 1979a). This article will argue that
partly parallel to these changes the “second quiet revolution” has been occurring.
Over the last 20 years there have been other significant changes in society fueling
a further transformation in policing. This transformation is linked to the technological
revolution which has changed many aspects of the way things are done. These include
the new cyberspaces of play and work, the crimes and transformation of old crimes
that technology has enabled, and the new structures of policing that have emerged to
deal with them. The combination of these changes which this article will argue has
fueled a “new” private security industry, new corporate security structures, and a vari-
ety of other forms of new private policing largely rooted in voluntarism and vigilan-
tism. These changes like those of the first quiet revolution have occurred with little
scholarly debate and consideration of the potential policy implications that might be
needed as a result of them.
This article will begin by outlining the “second quiet revolution” in policing that
this article argues is taking place. This will include a consideration of some of the
background changes to the way people do things and how organizations provide ser-
vices. It will also illustrate the private sector dominance in policing these new domains
and an exploration of some of the new corporate security roles and functions that have
emerged to fill this gap. The article will argue that a “new” private security industry
has emerged alongside the “old.” The substantial new opportunities for voluntary
policing will also be demonstrated. The article will then move on to consider the impli-
cations for some of these changes and what issues they might raise in terms of poten-
tial regulation. Finally, the article will end with a discussion and conclusion bringing
together the arguments made in this article.
The “Second Quiet Revolution” in Policing
The Background Changes
The way that most people shop, play, bank, and date, to name some, is very different
to 20 years ago, as is the way many organizations offer services. Central to this trans-
formation has been the growth of the internet and the growing ubiquity of devices
offering easy access to it. In Great Britain in 2006 the number of adults who used the
internet daily was 36%. This had risen to 86% in 2018, and in that same year 78% of
adults used mobile smartphones to access the internet (Office for National Statistics
[ONS], 2018b). Such changes have been occurring across the globe. Central to the
growing use of the internet has been its use for social networking, shopping, banking,
and gaming.
Facebook (2018), for instance, has 1.47-billion daily users and 2.23-billion monthly
users. The users of Facebook communicate with one another, share insights, photos,
and videos to name some. It is also used by corporations, nongovernmental organiza-
tions (NGOs), and political groups to campaign and share ideas. On average, a user

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