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In response to the growing impact of information and communication technologies, data protection authorities have been established across Europe. However, despite the role of these authorities as enforcers of privacy and data protection legislation, surveillance studies have so far offered little attention to their role in resistance. From the outset of a critical socio-legal examination of the Norwegian Data Inspectorate, the focus of this paper is on the role of data protection authorities in resisting surveillance. More specifically, the paper asks what possibilities the Norwegian Data Inspectorate has for genuinely resisting surveillance, and how its institutional structure affects these possibilities. Through a two-pronged analysis of the Inspectorate, consisting of an institutional mapping and a typology of resistance strategies, the paper finds that there is a fundamental tension between the Inspectorate’s role as a state administrative body and a privacy-advocating ombudsman, exemplified by its role in resisting the implementation of the EU Data Retention Directive in Norwegian law.
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