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Privacy Threats in the Ubiquitous Information Society: An Analysis of Trends and Drivers

Friedewald, Michael (2009) Privacy Threats in the Ubiquitous Information Society: An Analysis of Trends and Drivers. In: Proceedings of the WebSci'09: Society On-Line, 18-20 March 2009, Athens, Greece. (In Press)

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Despite the obvious empowering benefits of convergent ICT for the emerging ubiquitous Information Society (aka ambient intelligence, pervasive computing, ubiquitous networking and so on) they will raise many privacy and trust issues that are context-dependent. These issues will pose many challenges for policy-makers and stakeholders because people’s notions of privacy and trust are different and shifting. People’s attitudes towards privacy and protecting their personal data can vary significantly according to differing circumstances. In addition, notions of privacy and trust are changing over time. The paper will provide numerous examples of the challenges facing policy-makers and identify some possible responses. More than a century ago, Warren and Brandeis defined privacy as the right to be let alone and their concern about privacy was prompted by a new technology. Their perceptions then have some interesting parallels with today when some have expressed concern about Europeans living in a surveillance society. For instance, it has often been noted in recent times that Londoners are photographed more than 300 times a day on average. There are surveillance cameras on the London Underground, on the buses, in shops, in office buildings, on the streets. While there are more surveillance cameras (“spy drones”, microphones and loud-speakers are being introduced too) in London than anywhere else, other cities are also adopting similar technologies and for similar reasons. While facial recognition technologies have not yet developed to the point where it is routinely possible to identify anyone who is captured on a video, we can suppose that day will come, and perhaps sooner than some might think. But concerns about living in a surveillance society melt away in the face of a terrorist attack or a terrorist attempt such as those in London in July 2005 and, more recently, the failed attempts in Cologne in July 2006 and in London and Glasgow in June 2007. Then, the public is relieved that there are surveillance cameras and that they help to identify would-be terrorists quickly. Similarly, there are concerns that millions of people in the EU populate the national DNA databases, but that databases have been instrumental in apprehending many rapists, murderers and other evil-doers, sometimes many years after a crime has been committed. Others may express concerns about a national network of digital medical records, its potential for abuse (especially discrimination if insurance companies are able to tap into it), but if it can save lives, lead to faster and more accurate treatment, then how should policy-makers and health authorities respond? At the same time, many citizens voluntarily provide personal information to commercial social networking websites such as Facebook, MySpace and Bebo, often disclosing very private details without realising (or caring) that this information not only may be disclosed to a potentially very large audience, but also indexed and thus becomes trivially locatable. The same people who think little of exposing themselves on social networking websites would probably be mightily upset if intruders stole their identity by capturing their personal details from their computers. Similarly, some people are prepared to give away personal data in exchange for the perceived benefits of a supermarket loyalty card, even though they object to being sent unwanted advertising in the post or being spammed every time they open their e-mail programs. These and many other examples highlight the difficulty in developing privacy-protecting and trust-enhancing policies. It may even be difficult to write domain-specific policies, because even within the same domain, differing circumstances may call for differing privacy protections. The aim of the paper is to give and overview of these technology-related privacy threats, analyse the underlying social and economic trends that are more and more threatening the conventional understanding of privacy. As such, the paper will provide a holistic and refined understanding of the privacy construct and provides a valuable contribution to both information systems research and policy makers alike in their efforts to better understand future challenges and develop sustainable and far-sighted counter measures.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item (Poster)
Uncontrolled Keywords:Ubiquitous Information Socuiety, Privacy, Trust, Policy Challenges
Subjects:Web Science Events > Web Science 2009
ID Code:152
Deposited By: W S T Administrator
Deposited On:24 Jan 2009 08:45
Last Modified:17 Mar 2009 22:52

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