Archive for the ‘Software’ Category

The main reason to care who gets sensing data about you

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

An ITU paper spells out the main reason to care who gets sensing data about individuals:

From a political standpoint privacy is generally considered to be an indispensable ingredient for democratic societies. This is because it is seen to foster the plurality of ideas and critical debate necessary in such societies…

• Privacy is also a regulating agent in the sense that it can be used to balance and check the power of those capable of collecting data…

Lessig’s list of reasons for protecting privacy belongs to what Colin Bennett and Charles Raab have called the ‘privacy paradigm’—a set of assumptions based on more fundamental political ideas: ‘The modern claim to privacy … rests on the pervasive assumption of a civil society comprised of relatively autonomous individuals who need a modicum of privacy in order to be able to fulfil the various roles of the citizen in a liberal democratic state.’

So the main reason is to protect our political freedom. This is why I hope to find an alternative to the word ‘privacy’ in our discussions. While a useful word, it has connotations of guilt or shame, which are inappropriate in this discussion of how to preserve and strengthen our freedoms. Any ideas on alternative terms? —Chris Peterson

Quick intro to Ubiquitous Sensor Networks

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

For a 25-minute slide-show-and-lecture intro to this topic from an industry perspective, check out Ubiquitous Sensor Networks: The benefits of smart dust and mesh technology by Joy Weiss of Dust Networks. Her presentation helps get across why these systems are arriving so fast.

Joy Weiss photo from ETC Conference

‘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

ACme: open source energy sensing from UC Berkeley

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

Reuters reports:

A team of UC Berkeley students have built a wireless sensor network energy management tool called ACme, and the group has released all of its hardware design and software information, including the sourcecode and API, on its web site…

While the set-up is similar to what’s involved with products from other companies, like Tendril, the team points out in a paper on their web site that most of the systems out there are largely proprietary. Tendril has released an API, but it isn’t showing all the details like the ACme creators are.

So this is a good thing.  Energy use sensors are soon likely to be all over the place inside our homes and workplaces; these will be great for saving energy, but could also be used for keeping an eye on what people are up to.  Let’s try to establish the principle right up front that we want to know what these devices are sensing and how the data will be used.

ACme stands for AC meter. Here’s the project website.

—Chris Peterson