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
First machine learning method capable of accurate extrapolation
13.07.2018 | Institute of Science and Technology Austria
A step closer to single-atom data storage
13.07.2018 | Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne
For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.
To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...
For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.
Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...
Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.
A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...
Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.
"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....
Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.
Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...
13.07.2018 | Event News
12.07.2018 | Event News
03.07.2018 | Event News
16.07.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
16.07.2018 | Life Sciences
16.07.2018 | Earth Sciences