Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Personal data protection vital to future civil liberties

14.09.2006
When micro-sized sensors can enquire our business in a particular neighbourhood, and equally micro-sized agents embedded within our clothing answer on our behalf, what are the risks to our personal data? How will we safeguard our personal privacy in such a society? SWAMI project researchers aimed to find out.

Product miniaturisation is fast reaching the level where tiny, intelligent devices can be embedded into virtually any part of our environment. This is the era of ambient intelligence (Aml), where microelectro-mechanical sensors (MEMS) no larger than a grain of sand will be capable of detecting everything from light to vibrations. In an environment of continuous communication surrounding everything we do and where we go, how can our security, personal privacy and civil liberties be protected? These are the issues that the partners in the IST project SWAMI set out to examine.

Ambient intelligence is believed to hold considerable promise for Europe’s economy. Hundreds of millions of euros have already been spent in AmI research, and this high level of spend is expected to continue. While most AmI scenarios paint the promise of the future in sunny colours, there is a dark side to AmI.

“Most people would be shocked to find out just how much information they consider private is already in the public domain,” says project information coordinator David Wright of Trilateral Research & Consulting in London. “Thanks to data aggregators that gather and consolidate a wide range of information about groups – and individuals – in society, our government and commercial organisations already know a great deal about what we do and what motivates us.”

To examine the potential threat to our personal liberties, the SWAMI partners created for analysis a number of “dark scenarios”, everyday situations that indicate how personal data could be misused in a future of intelligent environments. These dark scenarios offer visions of a potential future where safeguards to personal data are inadequate or have not been put in place.

In scenario 1, a man goes off to work at his office in the security company where he is employed, while his son exploits the technology on this father’s computer at home, with all its sophisticated investigative capabilities.

In scenario 2, senior citizens on a bus tour from Italy into Germany are involved in a collision due to a malfunctioning Aml traffic control system. The accident was caused by a hacker who accessed the control system and turned all the traffic lights to green.

Scenario 3 deals with a data-aggregation company that suffers theft of the personal AmI-generated data which fuels its core business. With a dominant position in the market, the company tries to cover this up, but ends up being taken to court two years later by the individuals affected. The scenario focuses on the boardroom discussions taking place as the management tries to decide what to do.

Scenario 4 presents an AmI society as high risk, as portrayed from the studios of a morning news programme. The scenario shows an action group fighting against personal profiling; the global digital divide and related environmental concerns, and the potential vulnerabilities of crowd management and traffic control systems in an AmI environment.

According to Wright, the darkest scenario of all is the threat to our personal space. “The most disturbing aspects of this new technology are already around us today, in the steady erosion of personal privacy,” he says. “Because of threats to our society, most people are willing to compromise on their personal privacy in order to gain greater security. Yet – and this must be a serious concern – is our security actually better than before we gave up this privacy?”

He believes therefore that further safeguards to personal data are needed. The project partners came up with a lengthy list of proposed safeguards to personal data; measures that will be fundamental in a future of ambient intelligence. They believe that legislation will be necessary both at national and at European level if Aml technologies are to be implemented without endangering the fundamental liberties upon which our civilisation is built.

These safeguards need to address technical, socio-economic and legal issues. In the technical arena for example, so-called privacy-enhancing technology (PET) can be built into fourth generation mobile devices, to alert the user to any data-privacy risks present within specific surroundings. Socio-economic safeguards will need to focus on increasing user awareness of the risks, both through improved education and by encouraging journalists to comment on such issues.

In the legal arena, the partners believe that present legal frameworks will not protect individual liberties in an ambient-intelligence future. Existing personal data laws and safeguards will need strengthening to meet the challenges posed by such all-encompassing technology.

Jernett Karensen | alfa
Further information:
http://istresults.cordis.lu/

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht Ultra-precise chip-scale sensor detects unprecedentedly small changes at the nanoscale
18.01.2017 | The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

nachricht Data analysis optimizes cyber-physical systems in telecommunications and building automation
18.01.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Algorithmen und Wissenschaftliches Rechnen SCAI

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Helmholtz International Fellow Award for Sarah Amalia Teichmann

20.01.2017 | Awards Funding

An innovative high-performance material: biofibers made from green lacewing silk

20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery

20.01.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>