Tommy Cooke PH.D

Privacy, Ethics & Internal Threat Assessment Manager
Centre for Advanced Computing


Queen's University
Kingston, ON, Canada


I am a SSHRC Postdoctoral Researcher at the Surveillance Studies Centre and the Manager of Privacy, Ethics, & Internal Threat Assessment at the Centre for Advanced Computing. Both of these positions are at Queen's University. My research interests are in critical studies of data, privacy, and surveillance. I also regularly engage the philosophy of noise to provide theoretical insight into matters of data protection and digital resistance.

My intellectual backbone is in communication studies, media studies, critical data studies, critical security studies, surveillance studies, and the sociology of technology. My professional aim is to assist the public and social scientists in critically understanding the sociotechnical and political dimensions of discrete privacy and surveillance data processes.

I am currently undertaking two closely related research projects. The first thoerizes the Apple mobile device operating system (iOS) as a governance technology. Examining the relationship between visual feedback mechanisms embedded in the Graphical User Interface (GUI) with design directives expressed in Apple's Human Interface Guideline, I argue that iOS steers user behaviour, thought, and understanding about personal information in ways conducive to Apple's industrial marketing and advertising strategies. The project's first manuscript has been accepted for publication in the journal of Surveillance & Society.

The second project is one I am pursuing as Co-Principal Investigator of "A Day in the Life of Metadata". Co-led by Chris MacPhee, Director of Operations at the Centre for Advanced Computing, we are leading a team of investigators that are empirically documenting the creation, movement, and transformation of smartphone-based surveillance metadata. The goal of the project is to provide empirical support to my theoretical work. Findings are also being organized as a new book manuscript. This new book will be formatted as a heuristic research guide, accompanied by a data visualization  toolkit, to support other social scientists in undertaking their own investigations into surveillance data.

I am currently working on a book that explores digital privacy as a matter of bottom-up, grassroots initiative taken up by users and volunteer programmers. I trace how these networks expose risky data processes within The Onion Router, WhatsApp, and SpiderOak One, and how they subsequently intervene by feeding them noisy, confusing, and misleading data. 

Under the publishing name "Thomas N. Cooke", my research has been published in leading peer-reviewed academic journals, including International Political Sociology as well as an article coming out later this year in Surveillance & Society. Along with Dr. Sophia Dingli, I am co-editor of Political Silence: Meanings, Functions, and Ambiguity with the Interventions Series of Routledge Press, which brings a number of scholars together from across the world to explore various forms of silence as a mode of political agency and expression. 

In my spare time, you can find me co-hosting a podcast, titled What's That Noise?! Please feel free to find our episodes on Apple Music, Spotify, or you can sample my latest episodes by visiting my podcast page.