Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Ubicomp challenges for privacy law

Ubiquitous (or pervasive) computing is the world of the "disappearing computer" where sensors and processors move into the fabric of our environment, collecting a whole range of data — with obvious potential issues for privacy. I spoke this morning at a workshop organised by the Ubicomp Grand Challenge community on UbiComp at a Crossroads: Art, Science, Politics and Design. Here are my slides and abstract (Jon Crowcroft has also been blogging the event):

Data protection law in Europe and elsewhere is based around principles first enumerated during the 1970s — that data about individuals should be processed fairly and lawfully; that the amount of data collected should be minimised given the task at hand; that users should be notified of processing, and explicitly consent to the processing of sensitive data (concerning their health, trade union membership, politics, sex life and several other categories).

Are these principles being made obselete by the development of new computing technology, particularly ubiquitous computing? Or are they generalisable enough to protect users' privacy in a world of ambient intelligence?

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