Archive for the ‘Principles’ Category

Sousveillance as citizen “undersight” raises tough questions

Monday, July 13th, 2009

Worth reading: h+ Magazine is featuring a piece by well-known wearable computing pioneer Steve Mann on the concept of sousveillance. It begins:

When Canadian police tasered Robert Dziekanski –- a man who had arrived in Vancouver International airport in October 2007 from Poland – it was not the surveillance cameras that helped bring the incident to light. It was witness Paul Pritchard who captured the killing on his camera phone. Dziekanski was tasered at least twice and then beaten by police.

This is but one example of citizens capturing their ordinary day-to-day life activities and uncovering crimes that have previously escaped capture by surveillance that looks only “from above.”

Later:

Sousveillance is a form of “reflectionism,” a term that describes the use of technology to mirror and confront bureaucratic organizations.

Sounds good. Now we need to look at the hard questions: where does one person’s ‘right to sense’ interfere with another’s right to privacy, where do we draw that line, and how will it be enforced? Tough questions, but we need to take them on now. If you find examples of work on this, please let us know here at OpenSourceSensing.org. —Chris Peterson

The Economist on mobile phone sensing pluses & minuses

Friday, July 10th, 2009

Alexandra Carmichael, co-founder of the open source health research site CureTogether, brings our attention to a piece in The Economist summarizing *some* of the current work on sensing using mobile phones. It concludes:

The technology is probably the easy part, however. For global networks of mobile sensors to provide useful insights, technology firms, governments, aid organisations and individuals will have to find ways to address concerns over privacy, accuracy, ownership and sovereignty. Only if they do so will it be possible to tap the gold mine of information inside the world’s billions of mobile phones.

This may be true, but these projects seem to be moving ahead in any case… —Chris Peterson

Scenarios of pervasive sensing & intelligent environments

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

Prof. Vic Callaghan of University of Essex (UK) brings to our attention a paper addressing issues of privacy and intelligent environments, which includes a number of scenarios that help make vivid what the future is bringing. His email is worth a read:

I just watched the video of your talk “Open Source Physical Security: Can we have both privacy and safety?“.

I think you raise a number of very important points about the potential for misuse of technology. I research in pervasive computing (Intelligent Environments, Pervasive Sensing, Digital Homes, Smart Homes etc) having previously been heavily involved in robotics. In this work I became aware of how technology could be misused, in a similar way to the nanotechnology you describe. We became so concerned that we gave a talk to the UN (as we felt it needed legislation or guidance at a very high level). More recently we wrote this up as an academic paper which suffered some opposition and modification before we were able to find and outlet willing to publish it (its a rather unpopular message). We are mainstream researchers in intelligent environments, that spent most of our life promoting this technology so it was, perhaps, a little unusual that we wrote an article that might be counter to its unfettered deployment. (more…)

Privacy and security in the design of Intelligent Environments

Monday, July 6th, 2009

There’s still time to attend the Ethical Design of Ambient Intelligence workshop on July 19, 2009 in Barcelona, Spain:

List of workshop themes include, but are not limited to:
* Ethical issues of Ambient Intelligence
* Ethical guidelines for design of Intelligent Environments
* User and/or usability/user experience studies related to the design of Intelligent Environments
* Privacy, Security and safety in the design of Intelligent Environments

It’s being held in conjunction with the 5th International Conference on Intelligent Environments. If you go, please let us know what you think. —Chris Peterson

Role of privacy in protecting political freedoms

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

Josh Hall brings to our attention an article in Technology Review by Simson Garfinkel. While the article focuses on online privacy, below are some excerpts that may be useful for our purposes here:

Privacy gives us the right to meet and speak confidentially with others—a right that’s crucial for democracy, which requires places for political ideas to grow and mature. …

Collectively, we made things worse by not building strong privacy and security guarantees into our information systems, our businesses, and our society…

Another law, the Video Privacy Protection Act of 1988, makes it illegal for Netflix to disclose the movies you rent…

A Nixon administration advisory committee then developed the Code of Fair Information Practice, a guiding set of principles that underlies the majority of U.S. privacy laws passed since.

This code is surprisingly straightforward. There should be no secret data banks; individuals must be able to view their records; there must be a way to correct errors; organizations maintaining data banks must make sure they’re reliable and protect them from unauthorized access; and information collected for one purpose must not be used for other purposes…

Congress, however, opposed TIA on the grounds that it treated everyone in the country as a suspect, and because it feared that a massive data surveillance system might be used for purposes other than catching terrorists. This prospect was not so hypothetical: in 1972 Richard Nixon had ordered the IRS to investigate his political opponents, including major contributors to George McGovern’s presidential campaign…

For more than 100 years, American jurisprudence has recognized privacy as a requirement for democracy, social relations, and human dignity. For nearly 50, we’ve understood that protecting privacy takes more than just controlling intrusions into your home; it also requires being able to control information about you that’s available to businesses, government, and society at large. Even though Americans were told after 9/11 that we needed to choose between security and privacy, it’s increasingly clear that without one we will never have the other.

Simson’s proposal for a government-issued online identity will be very controversial—see Bruce Schneier for the opposite view—but his discussion of the role of privacy in protecting freedom is useful separately from that.

I increasingly feel we need a different term than “privacy” for what we are trying to protect. Privacy has negative connotations. Any ideas? —Chris Peterson

‘Towards privacy-sensitive participatory sensing’

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

From the Fifth IEEE International Workshop on Sensor Networks and Systems for Pervasive Computing, three authors from Australia bring us Towards Privacy-Sensitive Participatory Sensing:

The ubiquity of mobile devices has brought forth the concept of participatory sensing, whereby ordinary citizens can now contribute and share information from the urban environment. However, such applications introduce a key research challenge: preserving the location privacy of the individuals contributing data. In this paper, we propose the use of microaggregation, a concept used for protecting privacy in databases, as a solution to this problem.

More of this kind of creativity, please. —Chris Peterson

Open Source Sensing Initiative officially launched

Monday, June 8th, 2009

from the press release:

Open Source Sensing Initiative Launched
Preserving security *and* civil liberties in the Sensor Age

Palo Alto, CA — June 8, 2009 — A new open source-style project to promote Open Source Sensing has been started, with the goal of bringing the benefits of a bottom-up, decentralized approach to sensing for security and environmental purposes.

“The intent of the project is to take advantage of advances in sensing to improve both security and the environment, while preserving — even strengthening — privacy, freedom, and civil liberties,” said Christine Peterson, coiner of the term ‘open source software.’ “We have a unique opportunity to steer today’s emerging sensing/surveillance technologies in positive directions, before they become widespread.”

“Cheap, ubiquitous sensing has the potential to turn the worlds of privacy and civil rights upside-down,” said Brad Templeton, a futurist and civil rights activist who chairs the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “No easy solution stands out, but the quest for an answer to these problems — by learning from the bottom-up approaches of the open source community — may provide some water in the desert.”

Participation is welcome from individuals and organizations, both non-profit and for-profit. The project is coordinated by Foresight Institute, a non-profit 501(c)3 organization focused on transformative technologies.

Link to website:
http://www.opensourcesensing.org

About Foresight Institute
Foresight Institute is a leading think tank and public interest organization focused on transformative future technologies. Founded in 1986, its mission is to discover and promote the upsides, and help avoid the dangers, of nanotechnology, AI, biotech, and similar life-changing developments. Foresight provides balanced, accurate and timely information to help society understand nanotechnology through publications, public policy activities, roadmaps, prizes, and conferences.

Contact:
Christine Peterson
tel +1 (650) 289-0860 ext 255
or use Contact email form at opensourcesensing.org

Sensing: Participatory or Opportunistic?

Monday, June 1st, 2009

A paper from Dartmouth and Columbia, funded by Intel and the Dept. of Homeland Security, Urban Sensing Systems: Opportunistic or Participatory?, distinguishes opportunistic vs. participatory sensing, and advocates the former:

With opportunistic sensing, the custodian may not be aware of active applications. Instead a custodian’s device (e.g., cell phone) is utilized whenever its state (e.g., geographic location, body location) matches the requirements of an application. This state is automatically detected; the custodian does not knowingly change the device state for the purpose of meeting the application request. To support symbiosis between the custodian and the system, sensor sampling occurs only if the privacy and transparency needs of the custodian are met. The main privacy concern is the potential leak of personally sensitive information indirectly when providing sensor data (i.e., the custodian’s location). To maintain transparency, opportunistic use of a device should not noticeably impact the normal user experience of the custodian as he uses it for his own needs.

They appear to be using the term ‘transparency’ differently than we would? —Chris Peterson

Open Mobile Consortium aims at the “bottom billion”

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

The Open Mobile Consortium officially launched yesterday. From the press release:

The Open Mobile Consortium today launched its global development community to help organizations working towards social good to better collaborate and share mobile phone-based technologies. The OMC’s open source software tools help organizations to better serve the health, humanitarian and development needs of the “bottom billion,” the poorest and most disenfranchised citizens of the world…

OMC members share a vision that by working together to drive grassroots mobile technology innovation in some of the most challenging, resource-poor environments in the world, they will create a simple, flexible, and reliable set of technology that enable to individual and organizations anywhere in the world to effect social change.

OMC looks on track to succeed at the first part of our goal here at Open Source Sensing: maximizing the benefits of these new abilities. Given the vulnerability of their target users, perhaps we can assist with the second part, minimizing the downsides. “Social change” comes in more than one flavor… —Chris Peterson

DARPA integrating sensor data on ‘elusive targets’

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

Nathan Hodge of Wired brings us news of DARPA’s plans for sensing:

It means stitching together information collected by different sensors to track a moving object.

Darpa’s 2009 strategic plan offers a fascinating overview of the different approaches the agency is taking to better track and identify these elusive targets. Some of these, like the Forester foliage- penetrating radar, tackle a specific problem: detecting enemy troops moving under the cover of dense jungle canopy. But another program, called NetTrack, would provide more persistent reconnaissance by linking together and comparing information from different sensors to track a target, even if it moves behind a solid obstruction.

The NetTrack overview on the Darpa website gives few details, but the strategic plan gives a better idea of how it might work. Using software tools, the system could stitch together information from a variety of sensors (synthetic aperture radar, optical, video, acoustic sensors, moving target indicators), and hand off to the right platform when appropriate. For instance, if a Predator lost a video feed on a vehicle that entered a forest, the networked system would cue a laser radar sensor to search for the target. Fusing or comparing sensor information can also help map out better routes for surveillance aircraft to ensure full-time coverage.

One big issue for us will be the extent to which the open source sensing principles apply to military sensors. Controversial! —Chris Peterson