Notes on “Privacy by Design – Principles of Privacy-Aware Ubiquitous Systems”

November 25, 2008

Privacy by Design – Principles of Privacy-Aware Ubiquitous Systems: Mark Langheinrich

Privacy by Design explores the intellectual history of privacy and applies it to ubiquitous computing. It explores the legal history of privacy in Western culture, outlines the principles of the top thought leaders, and explores contradicting viewpoints on the importance of privacy issues.

Ubiquitous Computing applications can mean more eyes and ears in our lives. Current research hasn’t spent much time exploring the privacy implications of these applications. Langheinrich makes an important contribution by summarizing the important principles to make it easy for an ubiquitous computing application developer to think through the privacy dimension of a technology. The structure he establishes allows some systematic evaluation of a system. 

The principles are simple:

  • An ubiquitous computing system should notify nearby people what it is recording.
  • An ubiquitous computing system should allow nearby people to control what is recorded or opt out of the recording.
  • An ubiquitous computing system should not violate the anonymity of a person.
  • An ubiquitous computing system should keep local information local.
  • An ubiquitous computing system should secure the information it collects.
  • An ubiquitous computing system should provide access to the information it collects. It should be possible to remove information.

I think the paper represents an important call to action for the ubiquitous computing community. These applications are increasingly widespread. At the same time, current lack of attention to privacy pushes back the boundary of acceptability.

Like many ubiquitous computing research papers, this one lacks a connection to reality. In the end, thinking about privacy issues and fixing them takes time and money. These are scarce resources and enforcing privacy principles will require more than papers in journals.

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: